5 Reasons to Update Your Will

You may have executed a Will in the past, but does it meet your current needs? One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “How often should I update my Will?” There is no definitive answer to that question, because Wills, Trusts and your Estate Plan need to be flexible to meet your changing circumstances, needs and desires.  Even so, here are five common reasons why you might need to update your plan:

1. Change in Relationship. You got married (or divorced), and your old Will and Estate Plan was meant for your old relationships. If this is the case, even before you update your Facebook status, you should update your Will! Under Pennsylvania’s default rules, if one spouse passes away, that spouse’s assets do not necessarily go fully to their surviving spouse. In many cases, if there is no Will in place, those assets will be divided between the surviving spouse and other relatives of the deceased spouse. It is rarely a good idea to let the state decide how your assets are distributed, and how much of it will go to your surviving spouse. Putting a Will in place can ensure that your assets are distributed to the people you want, in the amounts you want.

2. Changing Executors. Choosing an Executor, Trustee, and Guardian is an important decision. An Executor is the person you appoint to administer your ensure your assets are distributed according to your instructions.  A Trustee is responsible to invest and manage trust assets for the benefit of trust beneficiaries. A Guardian is appointed to care for your minor children until they reach adulthood.  Maybe the people you originally chose to fill these roles are no longer involved in your, or your children's, lives.  It's important to update your Will so that you have the right people serving in each of these important roles. 

3. Becoming a Parent.  When you become a parent for the first time, your responsibilities change, and your new little one depends on you. Thoughtfully caring for a new child should include a Will and Estate Plan that provides for your child in the event of your death. In your Will, you can name a Guardian to care for your child if you are no longer living. You can also establish a plan that will provide for your Child until they become old enough to provide for themselves. More than that, through your Will, you can leave behind your spiritual testimony, or other meaningful statement about life, which your child will always have as a remembrance of you.

4. Change Beneficiaries.  If your relationship with your named beneficiaries has changed since your last Will, you may want to change your beneficiaries.  Perhaps over the years you have become charitably inclined and want to provide for charities or organizations that you feel passionate about. Or maybe your children are now grown and providing for themselves, and since their needs are not as urgent, you might consider sharing the benefit of your assets among other people or organizations which are important to you. 

5. Financial Blessing.  Many people put their first Will in place when they get married or when they have their first child. Usually, at that time, they don’t have a lot of assets, and may have debts such as a home mortgage, car loans, and school loans. But, over time, financial situations improve as debts are paid and earning power increases. Sometimes a successful business or a family inheritance drastically improves financial standing, too.   If your financial picture has changed, your estate planning might need to change along with it to ensure you are avoiding unneccessary taxation and responsibly stewarding your assets.

These are some of the common reasons to update your Estate Plan. There are many other reasons to re-look your plan, such as tax law changes, health concerns or losing a spouse. Any time you experience a change in life circumstances, it is a wise move to talk to an Estate Planning Attorney to determine if it is necessary to update your Will and Estate Plan.

About the Author

Neal Rice | Rice Law FirmNeal is a former Army Officer turned estate planning, real estate & business law attorney.  He is the founding attorney of the Rice Law Firm, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Outside of work, Neal enjoys time with his wife and family, serving his church, boating, traveling, and a good Philly cheese steak. You can email Neal at nrice@ricelegalfirm.com, or visit the Rice Law Firm.

This blog entry is for general information purposes only.  It is not intended to provide specific advice on individual legal, financial, or tax matters. It is not intended to and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Please consult an appropriate legal or tax professional for advice pertaining to your unique situation.