I am often asked how often a Will should be updated. This is a fairly difficult question to answer because it differs. That decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, though, it should be updated any time you experience a life-altering event or when you feel it is out of date.
Here we will explore the most common times when you should be certain to update your Will. I would be remiss if I did not begin this article by saying that as soon as someone turns 18, he or she should immediately get a Will. It is important for everyone to have a Will regardless of how much money or property they have because if you die without a Will, it is often more expensive to probate an intestate estate (without a Will) than it is to probate an estate with a Will. Having a Will also ensures that your property is divided as you wish rather than how the state law believes you would want your property to be divided.
The first life-altering event that most people will have is a marriage. After you get married, in most states the law will automatically assume that your property will pass to your spouse after you die. However, this can often be complicated by children (especially children you had with someone other than your current spouse) or certain other things. To ensure that your spouse receives the property you want him or her to receive in the event of your death, it is extremely important for you to execute a new will in to ensure these wishes occur.
The next life-altering event that most people will come to is the birth of a child. You should update your Will after any child is born. If you do not create a new Will after every child, depending on how your previous Will was written, the law may treat children that were born after your current Will was executed differently than children that were born before the Will was executed. Also, depending on the language of your previous Will, the law may split the estate between your children and your spouse rather than giving everything to your spouse. This can be especially complicated if you have children from a previous relationship. Another reason to update your Will after you have a child is to specify exactly who should take care of your kids in the event that you and their other parent were to die. Your Will can define this for you. By putting this in your Will, you will help your family by preventing a custody suit after you die. Custody suits can be expensive and extremely emotional. They often end with bitterness and hurt feelings and is not the best thing for your children or other loved ones. Not to mention that you don't want a Court to decide the fate of your children when you have every opportunity to specify who you believe would be best to raise the kids.
The final life-altering event that people may experience is divorce. Although the law in most states will give nothing to an ex-spouse in the event you die before updating your Will to exclude him or her, it is best to go ahead and write a new will to completely eliminate your ex from the Will. This will not only ensure that he or she will not receive any property after your death, it will also state exactly how you do want your property distributed.
There are numerous other life-changing events after which you should write a new Will. I cannot cover all of those events in this article, but when they come along, you will know. Regardless of your situation in life, you definitely need a current Will which you keep updated any time your life changes or you change your mind about how to divide your property.
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