A will is a legal document intended to carry out your final wishes with regards to your estate after you pass away. Even as such, the will that you initially executed is not a rock-hard document which cannot be changed under any circumstance. In fact, you should constantly update your will to reflect the changing circumstances of your life. There are ten “milestone” changes in your life that should necessitate updating your will or estate planning document.
1) Your having a new child;
2) Your getting married or divorced;
3) The death or incapacity of one of your designated beneficiaries;
4) Substantial change in your net worth;
5) Change in your or your beneficiaries’ needs (e.g. one may suddenly need special medical attention);
6) Change of residence (Your original will may have been executed in a different state and now you are residing in California.)
7) Change in the laws of taxation;
8) Amendment in the named personal representative or the guardian of your minor children;
9) Your support of new philanthropic interests;
10) Your retirement
With any of the events mentioned above you should consider updating your will. Talk to your estate planning lawyer on how to go about updating your will. In Orange County, you can find attorneys with the track record in probate law and estate planning.
A will which has not been updated to reflect major life changes may prove to be troublesome to the decedent – or more accurately the heirs –when the will is examined in probate court. One example was Ralph (not his real name). In 2005, he executed a will naming his wife and two children as one of his beneficiaries. At that time the will was executed, Ralph never imagined that his marriage would sour. However, in 2009, he divorced his wife and in 2010 he got married a second time. All the while, the estate planning lawyer of Ralph, a resident of Orange County, reminded him to update his will. Ralph, who was at the pink of health, did not see any urgent need to update his will.
Soon thereafter Ralph suffered a fatal car accident. Alas, under the law, the court had to honor Ralph’s will which was validly and legally executed. It was not Ralph’s intention to bequeath anything to his divorced first wife. But, alas, his first wife will get the lion’s share of his estate. All because he did not update his will when the circumstances of his life changed.
Your will should be updated to reflect the major changes you have gone through in your life. As our story shows, a will which is not updated will not carry the decedent’s wishes. It is practically the same – or even worse – than having no will at all. See your probate lawyer when you have a major life change.