Though a will is commonly thought of in association with death, it is really a vital tool in helping you plan for the future. Even once you have a valid will, you are never completely finished with your estate plan; wills need to be updated as your life changes. There are a number of reasons why you would likely need to make changes to your will throughout your lifetime.
Death of a Beneficiary – If someone named in the will as a beneficiary or the will’s executor has died, you will need to make changes to your will.
A Change in Assets – When the value of your assets has changed significantly, you will likely need to update your will; this applies whether the value of your assets increases or decreases. For example, if you own a vacation home that you have left to one of your children, but later sell it, you will need to change your will and likely redistribute your assets among beneficiaries.
If You Get Married – Whenever you or someone else in your family marries, you will likely want to make changes to your will. Some decisions that you’ll have to make include what you will leave your spouse, and if you now have a blended family with stepchildren, what assets you will leave them. A spouse will automatically inherit a certain percentage of your estate, but you can specify what assets that spouse inherits.
If You Get Divorced – When you get a divorce you will want to remove your spouse as your primary beneficiary, though the law does automatically revoke provisions in a will for an ex-spouse. Keep in mind that if you are divorced you will need to change the beneficiary you named in your life insurance policies and any financial accounts. If you were to die, these would still go to the named beneficiary, even if it is an ex-spouse.
The Birth of a Child – As soon as you have children it is time to update your will. Not only do you have to name that child in your will as a beneficiary, but you will also want to name a guardian to care for the child if something were to happen and you died while the child was still a minor.
When You Retire – When you retire you will probably need to update your will. The assets that you have may change drastically. For example, if you were to sell your home and move you will have to make some changes to how you distribute your assets. If you haven’t done so already, retirement is also a good time to add some documents to your estate plan, such as a Living Will and a Power of Attorney. If you were to become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself, these documents will be very helpful to your family.
Writing a will is not a one-time event, it is very important that you keep your will updated to reflect any life changing events that take place.