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When & How Often Should You Update Your Will?

Wills Trusts Special Needs Trust Attorney Jeyaram & Associates One of the biggest misperceptions about wills and trusts is that once they’re written they cannot be changed or that it’s difficult to change a will or trust.

This is not true.

Wills and trusts should be viewed as “organic” and “living” documents that can and should be updated as your life changes.

Nothing Stays The Same

We all know the adage “nothing stays the same” to be true. Our lives and circumstances always change – sometimes quickly or in ways that we never anticipated. These changes often impact decisions we’ve made in our will and trust, and as a result, we need to update and change our wills and trusts to reflect those changes.

Following is a sample list of life changes as to when you should update or change your will:

  • Addition of a child (ex. birth or adoption)
  • Death of someone named in the will (ex. guardian, trustee, spouse, child, etc.)
  • Divorce or marriage
  • Change of address
  • A minor turns 18
  • Retirement
  • Your property value significantly changes (decreases or increases)
  • Acquisition of significant assets or finances (ex. an inheritance)
  • Significant change in health (yours or someone named in the will or trust)
  • Prior to turning 701/2 years of age if you have an IRA, 401(k), or other qualified plan that requires you to begin taking distributions at age 701/2.

You Change Your Mind

Recently we had a client update their special needs trust to reflect changes in their relationship with an individual they listed a guardian. The individual initially listed as guardian was experiencing significant personal changes that resulted in estranged relations with the family. As a result, the client named a new guardian for his children.

Even if something as significant as the aforementioned doesn’t happen, you can always update or change individuals listed in your will or trust or how your assets should be allocated. Sometimes our opinions change or our needs change. As a result, it’s important to update your will or trust to reflect those changes.

Time & Changes In The Law

If you have a special needs trust in place, I always encourage clients to review them on an annual basis – especially the letter to guardians. The letter to guardians is the organic plan that details how to best care for a differently abled child if something suddenly happens to you. A lot can change in a year with a child – anything from new routines to new medical conditions to new favorite toys. This letter is the life line for guardians.

Updating your will or trust every 3 to 5 years is ideal. During that time, changes in estate planning laws may have occurred and your attorney can advise you accordingly.

Easy To Update

It’s important to never try to change or update your will or trust by simply crossing out or adding words or lines on the will. These edits invite confusion and could be challenged in court as to whether they are legally valid. As a result, it’s best to contact your attorney when you need to make updates.

While the initial will may take a bit of time to complete since you’re making important legal decisions to protect your family and asset, updating your will or trust is not as involved. Your attorney will prepare a new will for you to sign to revokes the earlier one.

We Can Help

We’ve helped hundreds of families create and update their wills to best reflect and protect their families and assets as their situations change. If you’re not sure how changes in your life will impact your will, just call us. That’s what we’re here for. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

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