Your will explains how you want your assets distributed after your death and who you want to be your children’s guardian. Circumstances can change and the instructions you gave in the past may no longer be relevant. Review your will at least once a year to make sure it reflects your current relationships, assets and preferences.
Relationships May Change
You may get married, separated or divorced. You may have or adopt children, or other family members or friends may have or adopt children that you would like to include in your will in the future. You may have a falling out with someone and decide to reduce or eliminate that person’s inheritance. You may decide to leave some or all of your assets to a charitable organization, school or religious body that is important to you.
If you get married, update your will to name your new spouse as a beneficiary. You should also change your will if you get separated or divorced. If you don’t, your former spouse may be entitled to an inheritance in some states.
Update your will following the birth, adoption or death of a child or grandchild. You may need to adjust the distribution of your assets to other beneficiaries. If you don’t name an individual in your will, he or she may challenge the will in court.
If the person you designated as your children’s guardian passes away, becomes disabled or moves away, or if you no longer want that person to be your children’s guardian, update your will. You may want to make other changes when a child turns 18.
Someone you named as a beneficiary or executor may pass away. If so, adjust your distribution of assets or name a new executor.
Your Assets May Change
Your net worth may increase or decrease significantly. That may affect the way you want your assets to be distributed.
If your will stated that you wanted an individual to receive a specific piece of property, such as an antique watch, but you no longer have the property (because it was lost, stolen or destroyed), update your will. If you don’t, depending on where you live, the person who was supposed to receive the item may receive something else from your estate, or he or she may get nothing.
Talk to an Attorney
Federal and state tax laws change often. An attorney can explain recent changes in tax laws and may advise you to set up your will in a specific way to reduce the tax burden on your beneficiaries.
State laws differ on matters related to inheritance. If you move to a different state, consult an attorney in the new state and update your will as necessary.
If you don’t have a will, now is the time to make one. If you pass away without a will, the court system may decide how to distribute your assets and who will get custody of your children. Don’t leave such important decisions in the hands of strangers. Make your wishes known.