A Will is one of the most important documents you can prepare during your lifetime. Your Will provides instructions for dispersal of your property to whomever you choose, names a guardian for your minor children, if any, and addresses other estate planning issues that may arise after your death. If you do not have a Will before your death, then state law will determine to whom your property passes, and who will raise your minor children.
If you do have a Will, it is important that you review it every few years to make sure that your wishes reflect your current situation. Simultaneously, you should review other legal documents such as Living Wills and Healthcare Powers of Attorney. Property not covered by Wills, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, should be reviewed as well to make sure the beneficiary(ies) are also in accordance with your wishes.
Some reasons you would want to update or change your Will are:
In most states, your spouse is legally entitled to receive a portion of your property unless otherwise stated in a separate legal agreement, such as a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. If you marry a person with children, you may want to ensure that while your new spouse is provided for at your death, your own children ultimately inherit your assets in the case of your spouse’s death. Otherwise, you may find that your stepchildren inherit all your assets through your spouse, not your own children.
Unmarried Partners Living Together:
Unmarried partners who live together are not legally entitled to receive any property from each other unless it is specifically stated in a Will or other legal document.
If a marriage is dissolved, you may no longer wish to leave certain property to your former spouse. In some states, portions of a Will relating to a former spouse may be disregarded following a divorce, while in other states the entire Will becomes void, thereby creating the need for a new one.
With the birth or adoption of a child or additional children, you may want to revise your Will to include a guardian for each child or one guardian for all children. You might like to leave instructions for the care of special needs children, or name an individual who will handle your financial matters on behalf of your children while they are underage.
If you move to a new state, it is advisable to update your Will to reflect new or different state laws that could affect the handling of your estate after your death.
A Change of Heart:
You may change your mind as to whom you want to receive property from your estate, e.g., change a charity name or even disinherit someone.
Other issues that would necessitate you updating your Will are:
- Changes in tax laws that could affect your estate plan;
- Acquisition or disposal of property;
- A change in your financial situation, and/or
- Death of a beneficiary, guardian or executor.
There are two ways to update or change a Will—through a Codicil or creating a new Will. A Codicil is a provision that allows you to make additions to, or revoke part of, a current Will. Each new change has to be dated, signed and witnessed to be effective. Multiple changes can create confusion, so we strongly suggest that you create a new Will to avoid any confusion.
Once you have updated or changed your Will, make sure that someone you trust, such as a family member or close friend, can easily access it, or provide a copy for them. The only constant is change. Always being prepared and aware of these changes and how they can affect the lives of those we love is important. Review your Wills often, maybe even once a year, to make sure that your loved ones are protected and provided for as you wish. For more information regarding this topic, please contact Henssler Financial at 770-429-9166 or [email protected].