The two most common reasons for not writing a will are procrastination and not wanting to think about our mortality. Unfortunately, death is a part of life, and it can often occur without warning due to accidents or even illnesses like COVID-19. Having a will gives your heirs direction on the “who, what, and when” of your estate. It will also minimize any family fights when it comes to sorting things out because your will has already done this for them. While writing a will is a lot to take on, mentally and emotionally, it can afford you much peace of mind once it’s done. But, once you’ve made your will, you can’t just shove it into a drawer and forget about it.
You should be reviewing your will more often than you might think, particularly any time there is a change to your assets or your family status. Those events can include:
Marriage and Divorce
Marriage adds a person to your life who you likely want to add to your will. On the other hand, if you are divorced, you may want to remove that person from your will. That isn’t always the case, but usually, people don’t want to leave family heirlooms to their ex.
When a child is born, you not only have a new heir, you also have a responsibility. Who would you want to be the guardian of your minor children if you died? This question is especially important is you are single, or if you and your spouse were to die simultaneously without wills. In these situations, the state may take over the care and support of minor children, and name relatives or someone else to take over their care. That’s why both parents should have wills. If your spouse dies before you, while any of your children are still minors, you’ll want to update your will, directing relatives and friends to select a guardian if you die.
If there are certain assets you want to give to your children, you’ll need to specify that in your will. Otherwise, state law may divide your property in a way that doesn’t comply with your wishes. If you leave property to minor children, you should name a guardian to administer it for them. It could be the person who is raising the children or someone else.
Death of Heirs
If an heir dies before you do, update your will to indicate where their portion of your estate should go. Otherwise, that property could end up in probate. If you have no living heirs when you die, your estate may pass to the state instead of to friends and relatives.
You may also want to update your will after a change in relationship with any other member of your family. Maybe the executor of your will who you named years ago is no longer of sound mind and capable of doing such duties.
A Change in Assets
While your jointly owned home will automatically become your surviving spouse’s in its entirety, not everything is so easily assigned. What if you receive an unexpected inheritance just before you die? Will that go to your spouse? Not if you haven’t listed it in your will. It, along with other unassigned assets, could go to probate, which is why it’s better to have an updated will. Other changes include:
- Making a large purchase
- Liquidating or selling an asset, such as a house, a vehicle, or a boat
- Paying off your mortgage (or taking on a new one)
- Owning stocks that have increased or decreased substantially, in value
- Starting a business or closing one
Other Changes for which you should update your will
- State laws for wills can vary, so if you move out of the state where you executed your will, check with an attorney in your new state to see if your will meets the requirements of your new state, and is still valid.
- A falling out with a family member or close friend, whom you have named in your will, will likely change how much you want to give to them (if anything).
- You may want to leave a specific asset to a family member who is interested in it.
When you update your will, use a lawyer, experienced in writing and making changes to wills, so there are no problems down the road. White & Associates is here to help you. Contact us today.