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Wills: How To Store And How To Change

When To Review Your Will

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Keeping your Will up-to-date is a life-long process.  As circumstances change throughout your life, review whether you want to make revisions to your Will.

Some happenings which should make you think about whether to update your Will include:

  • Marriage: Make sure your Will is updated when you get married, especially if you would want your spouse to get assets differently than what he or she would normally get under your state's intestacy laws (the laws that govern what happens if there is no Will).
  • Significant Others/New Beneficiaries:  There might be people in your life to whom you want to leave assets who weren't in your life when you first wrote your Will.  This can include close friends and significant others.  In non-traditional relationships, including your partner in a Will is critical to protect him or her.
  • Birth of a child:  Update your Will when you have a new child. 
  • Moving:  While your Will could be written to be valid in any state, double-check with a local attorney immediately after you move to another state.  This can be especially important if you move from or to a community property state such as California or Texas. 
  • Separation or Divorce.
  • Death of, or desire to change, your Personal Representative/Executor or his or her substitute. 
  • Death of, or desire to change, the guardian for your children.
  • Change in the amount of your wealth:  If you approach the level where you might owe estate taxes, changes in your estate planning may be necessary. Also, as your assets increase, you may want to add beneficiaries, especially charitable organizations.  On the flip side, if your estate decreases in value, you also may want to distribute your estate differently.
  • Change in your health:  Many people write their Wills with the expectation that their assets will be distributed at the end of a normal life span.  This is not the way to write a Will. It should be written as if you will get hit by a bus tomorrow. If there is a change in your health condition that could shorten your life, use the change as an excuse to revisit your Will and make sure it is appropriate in case something happens tomorrow.
  • Passage of another year. It's a good idea to review the provisions of your Will on an annual basis -- say at your birthday or New Year's.

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