Recently, a friend asked me whether he needed to update his will. His will was written when he had young children and they are now all over 18. I told him: “it depends”.
If your will was originally prepared by an experienced attorney, there is a good chance that it was written in such a way that it takes into account “common” occurrences or changes in your life, such as your children reaching adulthood or the unavailability of an executor (due to death, disability or other reasons). But this is not certain. And a failure to update your will after a significant life event could have a major impact on how your estate is administered or how your assets are distributed.
The following are some examples of circumstances that may require an update to your will:
- birth of a child or grandchild;
- marriage or divorce;
- relocating to a new state or country;
- significant change in wealth;
- death or permanent disability of a spouse or child;
- unavailability of an executor, a trustee or a guardian named in the will (particularly if no alternate is named);
- any other event that causes your estate planning objectives to change.
If any of the above have occurred, you should have your existing will reviewed by an attorney to discuss if an update is needed. Also keep in mind that certain changes in your life may require you to update (1) powers of attorney, (2) health care powers of attorney and advanced medical directives (living wills) and (3) beneficiaries identified in life insurance policies, retirement and brokerage accounts.