Creating a will is always a good place to start when getting your personal affairs in order and establishing your wishes for your estate, but it is unwise to leave a will unchanged for years. Unfortunately, many people believe that simply creating a will protects their rights and preferences for their estate, which is not always true.
If you created your will more than five years ago, or if you experienced major life changes after creating your will, it is wise to make time to review the document and update it. Failing to update your will as your circumstances shift over time may create inconsistencies between your written wishes and your actual beneficiaries and estate.
Inconsistencies can give one party or another an opportunity to challenge your will and prolong the amount of time it takes to distribute your estate, possibly draining away much of its value in the process.
Update when your beneficiaries change
Over time, many of us gain or lose beneficiaries for a variety of reasons. If you get married, remarried, or divorced, or lose a spouse to death, it is wise to update your will to reflect this change. This also applies if you gain or lose a beneficiary through marriage, divorce, death or adoption, or when a dependent child reaches legal adulthood.
You run the risk of creating large conflicts among the people you love the most if your will includes people whom you no longer want to list as beneficiaries, or if it excludes people who would be beneficiaries.
Update to account for changes in your estate
Your will should also reflect the most accurate, recent version of your estate, to avoid complications. Any time that your estate changes significantly, you want to make sure that your will addresses these changes. If your estate grows, amending your will to address that growth helps ensure efficient dispersal when the time comes. Likewise, amending your will to address significant shrinkage in your estate clarifies how you want your assets divided so that beneficiaries are less likely to fight over pieces of a smaller estate pie.
You may or may not experience any of these changes, but it is still wise to review your will about every four or five years, to stay on top of changes in estate planning law that may impact the effectiveness of your wishes. A strong legal strategy and regular reading of your will helps keep your rights secure and gives you the peace of mind that you deserve.