Your will is one of the most important documents you will write in your life. Not only does it specify end-of-life wishes, but it allocates all of your assets to the proper parties so you are giving your assets to those you choose. As your life changes, so should your will to reflect these changes.
This article will lay out some of the most important times in your life that require an update to your will. Throughout your life’s ups and down, your will needs to flow right along with all of the decisions and changes so you can make sure you and your family stay protected and secure throughout it all.
Reasons to Update Your Will
Estate attorneys recommend reviewing your will every three to five years even if you don’t think any changes need to be made, so you must update your will during major life events. Here are some of the most significant reasons to memorialize your will and make sure it is consistent with your current wishes:
Every new child you have will need to be added to your new will to ensure they are provided for as you intend. Through birth or adoption, a new addition to the family is not only a way to secure your legacy but also to ensure theirs. Make sure to have the language flexible to accommodate future children as well. It is important to note that any new stepchildren are not entitled to any of your assets under law, so adding them to your will is necessary if you want them to have any of your property when you pass.
Change in Marital Status
Marriage, divorce, or becoming widowed are all reasons to update the beneficiaries that are named in your will. If your spouse was your durable power of attorney (financial and medical power of attorney that makes decisions on your behalf when you are unable) then it is especially important to name a new POA as soon as possible, or at least revoke the old one. It is crucial to remember that you cannot change your will until your divorce is finalized.
Wealth Increase or Decrease
Sudden increases or decreases in your wealth could switch you into a different tax bracket and change your estate plan entirely. Tax considerations for higher brackets are always a pleasant addition to any will change, so make sure to note any windfalls you may have. These changes could also have you wanting to change your beneficiaries, increase or decrease gifts you are leaving to people, as well as any legacy gifts to your charities of choice. Living trusts can be created to help avoid probate and estate taxes while making sure loved ones are provided for.
Tax Laws Change
Estate laws tend to change every so often and if you haven’t updated your will in some years, it may be time to refresh it in order to take advantage of or avoid new tax laws. New laws can shift your strategies and even help you out as well. Estate laws like the “SECURE Act” and the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” have updated how Inherited IRAs, same-sex marriage, and family business planning work. The amount you can leave people without being taxed has increased substantially in the past two decades as well. Tax portability and gift taxes are also to be considered for high net worth individuals.
Move to Another State
Laws can vary from state to state and estate planning laws are no different. Check the laws as you move from state to state to make sure you don’t need to make any changes or that you make them as soon as possible when you arrive in your new state.
Being diagnosed with a terminal illness or degenerative disease is only made harder if you do not have a will, or your will is outdated. It will be important to consider whether your cognitive abilities are intact when updating your will due to a terminal illness.
Divorce, death, or a change of heart are all reasons you may want to do a beneficiary change in your will. No matter the reason, it is your choice to make and you can change your will how you see fit. Remember, the family has automatic rights to your assets while your friends do not so make necessary changes if you decide someone else is deserving of your property.
Is It Time to Update Your Will?
At Brackin & Johnson, our experienced Estate Planning attorneys can assist you or your loved ones with planning for long-term care and ensuring medical needs are met should the time come when you or your family member can no longer care for oneself.
Medical and Financial Planning is our specialty, and we will work with you to ensure that your future is laid out in writing. If you’re searching for a skilled attorney specializing in estate planning, living wills, and power of attorney, get in touch with us today to schedule your free initial consultation.