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When Should I Update My Will? Navigating Life’s Twists and Turns

Updated: June 2024

When do you need to update your Will? Estate planning is an ever-evolving process that adjusts and adapts to the ebbs and flows of our lives. Central to this is your Last Will and Testament. But creating a Will isn’t a one-time affair; life’s unpredictability demands regular revisions. So, how do you know when it’s time to dust off that old document and make some changes? Let’s dive in.

The Living Document

Major Life Events

Financial Changes

Relationship Changes

Geographical Changes

Tax Law Changes

Setting up Trusts

Periodic Reviews

Appointing or Changing Executors

1. Introduction: The Living Document

A Will is often viewed as a ‘living document’. Just as our lives undergo changes, so should our Wills. It’s good to review your Will to ensure that it remains relevant and reflects your current wishes. This includes reviewing your Will whenever you move, have more children, etc. Essentially, anytime your life circumstances change, your Will should change right along with it.

A “living document” is an apt name for a Will, because it’s a dynamic document, one that can be updated or changed throughout a person’s lifetime. A Will remains relevant as long as it accurately represents the current intentions of the individual. Marriage, children, investments, or changes in financial status (who hasn’t experienced this in the past few years?) can necessitate revisions to a Last Will. This ensures the document remains a true representation of the individual’s desires.

2. Major Life Events: The Obvious Catalysts

Whenever a significant event occurs in your life, it’s a clear signal to revisit your Will.

  • Marriage: Newlywed bliss also comes with legal implications. Update your Will to include your spouse or adjust asset distribution. What is your spouse getting in your Will?
  • Divorce: The end of a marital union often necessitates changes in asset beneficiaries and executors. How will your Last Will and Testament change?
  • Birth or Adoption: The addition of a child is a joyous occasion. Ensure they’re a part of your Will and consider setting up trusts. Is there a guardian you want to add?
  • Death of a Beneficiary or Executor: When a named person in your Will passes away, adjustments are crucial. How will your Last Will change?

3. Financial Changes: Wealth’s Ebb and Flow

Major financial shifts can greatly impact how you’d like your assets to be distributed.

  • Acquisition of Significant Assets: Whether it’s a new home or a valuable piece of art, newly acquired assets should be addressed in your Will.
  • Sale or Disposition of Assets: If you’ve mentioned specific assets in your Will which you no longer own, those sections need revising.
  • Starting a Business: This not only adds to your assets but might also involve complex distribution desires.

4. Changes in Relationships

Beyond marriages and divorces, other relationship dynamics can influence your Will.

  • Estrangements: Sometimes, we grow apart from those once close. Such shifts might impact your distribution wishes.
  • New Dependencies: Whether it’s a new stepchild or an aging parent, new dependents might need to be factored into your Will.

5. Geographical Moves: New Horizons, New Rules

Relocating, especially across state lines or countries, can necessitate a Will update due to differing estate laws. Your Will may need to be updated to the provincial/state laws of the province that you’re living in.

6. Changes in Tax Laws

Estate and inheritance tax laws are prone to shifts. An update in these laws might prompt a restructuring of your estate plan to maximize benefits. It’s wise to change your Will to adapt to the province/state of residence.

7. Setting Up Trusts

If you’ve recently established trusts or wish to integrate them into your estate planning, it’s time for an update. You can choose this option in your Last Will and Testament; choose to leave everything in a trust.

8. Periodic Reviews: A Proactive Approach

Even without significant life changes, it’s wise to review your Will every 3-5 years. Regular checks ensure that your Will remains aligned with your current wishes. Always good to be prepared.

9. Appointing or Changing Executors

Your chosen Executor plays a pivotal role in the execution of your Will. Any change in your trust level or their ability to perform the task should trigger an update. Who would you trust to be the Executor of your Estate?

Keeping your Will up-to-date ensures that upon your passing, your wishes are carried out as envisioned. You will want to avoid as many disputes between loved ones as possible. That is why it’s important to ensure that your Will is updated to match your life circumstances.