Your Last Will and Testament is your only chance to decide what happens to your estate assets upon your death. It is the cornerstone of your estate plan -- the document from which all other estate planning tools flow. Once you have taken the time and effort to create your Will, don't make the mistake of failing to update it when necessary. Some reasons that a Will needs to be updated are obvious; however, consider the following, not so obvious, reasons as well when deciding if it's time to take another look at your Will.
Death: People think to update a Will when a parent, spouse or child dies, but the death of the person named as executor or guardian of your minor children can also prompt a review of your Will. The death of a business partner or even an in-law may also warrant a Will update.
Marriage or Divorce: Clearly, your own marriage or divorce calls for a revision of your Will; however, other marriages or divorces may also necessitate a change. The marriage or divorce of a parent, child or guardian, for example, can call for a review of your Will.
Birth: Although it is easy to rely on a generic term, such as "issue", to cover all of your children or grandchildren, it may be preferable to name each beneficiary by name in your Will to avoid any possible future confusion. As such, take the time to update your Will when there is a birth in the family.
Beneficiary Reaches the Age of Majority: Minors cannot inherit directly in your Will. As such, you likely named a trustee for any minor children when you made your Will. If a child has reached the age of majority, you will need to remove the trustee and provide for the direct transfer of those assets to the beneficiary in your Will.
Change in Assets: Although you may have a general provision in your Will for any asset not specifically named, if you acquire an asset worth a significant amount of money, or sell one, you may need to update your Will to address that asset for clarification.
Change in Location: In the confusion of a move, people typically don't think of how residency can affect a Will. State laws, however, can directly impact provisions in your Will, warranting a review and possible revision.
Change in State or Federal Laws: Laws change on a regular basis. Federal tax laws, for example, seem to continuously change. A significant change in either a state or federal law can result in the need to make a corresponding change to your Will.
You Reach the Age of Required Distributions: IRAs and 401(k)s typically require you to start taking distributions around the age of retirement. If you have significant funds in one of these accounts, the required distributions can change your asset structure enough to warrant a Will update.
Change in Guardian: This is a big, yet often forgotten, reason to update your Will. Regardless of the reason why you wish to change the named guardian for your minor children, if you wish to do so you must make it official by revising your Will.
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