Writing your Will isn’t normally a one-and-done process. Your life is ever-changing, and from time to time, you’ll want to revisit and revise your will to match your current situation. Changes in your age, your children’s age, the birth of a grandchild, declines in a family member’s health, and, equally important, changes in state and federal law, especially tax laws often warrant a review of your current Will and overall estate planning goals.
Updating your Will and overall estate plan is generally recommended after any change of life event or major circumstance changes, provided you’re not being coerced by another party to do so. Here are six common reasons to consider updating your existing Will.
1. Your family situation has changed.
Since you drafted your original Will, your family dynamics may have changed. Changes to your own health, your spouse’s health, or that of one of your children can prompt the need to also determine if a Will alone is sufficient to protect you and them in the future – especially if you may cease to have the capacity to update your Will at a later time. An addition to the family, including children and grandchildren, can prompt you to reconsider your beneficiaries, especially if they are under the age of eighteen (18) or twenty-one (21). Additionally, it is always important to consider updates to your designated testamentary guardians, particularly as your children become more established in their education and community connections such that placing them with an out-of-state guardian may not be in their best interests.
Family-related Will change can also be required in the event of a divorce or the passing of a family member who was named as a beneficiary. As soon as possible after these events occur, you’ll want to update your Will to ensure your assets are distributed according to your current wishes.
2. Your relationships have changed.
As life goes on, relationships, including those with romantic partners, family, and friends can change. You may not have the same closeness you once did with someone or are unsure if a beneficiary in your Will is able to take on your assets once you pass. Those you may have chosen as executors of your Will may not be able to hold this role anymore, making it crucial to reflect these changes in your current Will.
3. You’ve moved or acquired an out-of-state asset.
Laws governing estate planning and the validity of Wills can vary based on where you live. For instance, if you recently moved to Virginia from another state or country, you may wish to consult with a local attorney to ensure everything in your Will is still valid as written — particularly if you purchased a home in Virginia. It may be best to review the differences in the probate laws of Virginia versus the state or country from which you relocated. Similarly, if you recently purchased an out-of-state property that you plan to leave to a loved one, be sure you understand whether using a Will is the best tool for doing so as well as the gift tax consequences for such a devise.
4. Tax or estate laws have changed
Federal and state tax laws are constantly in flux, and the new Biden Administration is expected to propose some changes that could impact your current estate plans. Understanding these laws and making changes to your Will and your overall estate plan could be critical to ensuring you transfer assets to your loved ones using the most effective estate planning tools available.
5. Your assets have changed
Another reason to update your Will is either a sharp increase or decrease in your current assets. If your asset value is no longer as high as it was, you may want to reevaluate the distribution of your assets in your will.
Additionally, if your assets have increased, you may want to re-allocate your distribution plans for your named beneficiaries or add more beneficiaries. It’s also possible and often advised to create a trust, which could keep your heirs from having to go through probate in order to inherit certain assets.
6. You’ve had a change of heart
Another reason is, quite simply, that you may have experienced a change of heart in your current relationships or assets, which warrants an update to your will and overall estate plan. Maybe you drafted your will when you were young and have a different idea of how you’d like to distribute your assets. Maybe your children are grown adults, with different financial or life circumstances. Whatever the reason, it’s common to make adjustments to your will based upon careful thought and consideration of life’s changes.
Updating your Will? Get help from an experienced estate planning attorney.
Estate planning involves many types of choices and knowledge of the available tools to best implement those choices. Trying to update your Will on your own or determine which tools might serve you best can be difficult and stressful. Therefore, it’s important to work with a seasoned estate planning attorney to help you become fully informed of the tools available to you and avoid any potential issues along the way.
The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. has 20 years of experience handling estate planning matters for Virginia residents. If you need help drafting or updating your Will, or your other estate planning documents such as powers of attorney or a trust, we can guide you and your family through the process. Contact us to schedule a free consultation about your estate planning needs.