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Years ago, you made the responsible decision to execute a will and store it in a safe place.  But when was the last time you actually looked at your will?  Is it still consistent with your wishes?  Or does it need to be updated?  Here are some potential reasons to consider updating your will:

Marriage/Divorce.  Have you married or divorced since you executed your will?  If so, the State may ignore certain terms of your will and apply default statutory provisions.  To ensure that your estate’s distributions meet your current wishes, a will should be updated following a marriage or divorce.

Birth of Child/Grandchild.  If you have been blessed with a new child or grandchild after you executed your will, you will likely want to update it.  As was the case for a marriage or divorce, the State may apply default statutory provisions if a newly-born child or grandchild is not mentioned in your will.

Death of a Named Beneficiary.  Most wills are drafted to respond to the death of a beneficiary.  However, circumstances may have changed in your life whereby you want the distributions handled differently.  If distributions after the death of a beneficiary are no longer consistent with your current wishes, you should consider updating your will.

Change in Relationships.  Relationships change over time—sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.  For example, in your will executed twenty (20) years ago, you may have named a trusted friend to receive a significant portion of your estate.  However, for one reason or another, you have not talked with this person in over ten (10) years.  Do you still want this person to receive a significant portion of your estate?

Charitable Organizations.  Has a charitable organization had a large impact on your life since you executed your will?  If so, you may want to consider including this organization in your will.

Change in Assets.  Personal assets are constantly changing.  In your will, you might have left a specific asset to a named beneficiary.  Do you still have this asset?  If not, do you have a new asset that you would like to give to this beneficiary instead?  These issues can be addressed when updating your will.

Change in Probate and Tax Laws.  Probate and tax laws might have changed since you executed your will, which could impact the distribution of your estate.  To determine whether new probate or tax laws will impact your will, you should consult with an attorney.

Moved to a New State.  If you no longer live in the same state where you had your will prepared, you should consider having the document reviewed by an attorney in your new state as states can vary in their estate planning requirements. 

Passage of Time.  Even if you have not experienced an event listed above, reviewing your will every three (3) to five (5) years is a good practice to follow.

If you have experienced any of the above circumstances, you should review your will.  We recommend that you contact an attorney for assistance in reviewing your will.

Note that this post is only a brief summary about when to update your will.  It does not constitute legal advice nor does it establish an attorney/client relationship.  Should you have specific questions regarding the above, please contact Bonnie Coleman, Benjamin Ballou or Joshua Kutch at Hodges and Davis.

Hodges and Davis, P.C. - January 2015