Reasons Why You Might Need to Update Your Will
A will should incorporate all your final wishes for property distribution and any other decisions that need to be made at the time of your passing. However, these “final” wishes may not be so final as inevitable life changes could impact the way you want your assets distributed. It’s important not to wait until the last minute when it comes to changing estate planning documents.
When to Update Your Estate Planning Documents
Your estate planning documents, including your last will and testament, should be reviewed regularly to make sure that your property dispositions and beneficiaries are still in line with your wishes. If something has changed in your life and your will is no longer completely valid as it stands, you’ll want to consider making updates. Here are some of the most common life changes that may necessitate estate planning updates.
If you have a change in a primary relationship, such as a marriage, separation, divorce, or death of a spouse, you may want to update your will. Also, if you have an addition to the family such as the birth of a new child, the adoption of a child, or the addition of stepchildren to the family through marriage, you may want to review your will again.
Selling or losing property specifically bequeathed in the will can necessitate changes. This may be the case if you no longer own the house that you were planning to pass down to your kids, for example. If you also purchased property that’s not already accounted for in the will but needs to be gifted, such as a new sports car you wish to pass on, you need to change your will.
Changes in relationships with family members or friends may also call for updates to your will such as if you decide to write someone out of the will or decide to write someone into the will.
If you move to a new state, you may want to update your will to reflect different estate tax laws. Also, if you change your attorney, you’ll want him or her to review your will for any possible changes.
Essentially, you need to give your will a periodic checkup to determine if it still meets all your needs. If there comes a time where your current estate documents are not meeting all of your needs, then the next step is to determine whether you’ll draft an entirely new will or update your will via a codicil.
Drafting a New Will Versus Making Changes Via Codicil
A codicil is a separate document from a will that’s intended to serve as an amendment to the original document. Rather than drafting an entirely new document, you may choose to draft a codicil to indicate that certain changes need to be made to the original document. What’s important to note is that codicils require the same formalities as wills when drafting and executing them.
This means that while a codicil may be a simpler document to draft, the execution process is not easier than executing a traditional will. The biggest deciding factor in whether to write an entirely new will or simply amend the prior will using a codicil is how extensive the rewrite is. Individuals who simply want to change their executor or add property can likely do so using a codicil. If you’re looking to make more in-depth rewrites, it may be advisable to consider the creation of an entirely new will rather than taking the time to outline every change needing to be made between the first and second document.
Revoking a Prior Will
When you draft a codicil, you indicate the will using the date the document was executed. If you draft a new will, you do so by indicating that as the testator, the individual making your wishes known, you would like to revoke all prior wills and codicils executed before the new one. It is important that you revoke all prior wills and codicils when drafting a new replacement will either in writing or by actually physically destroying all copies of the will that exist. If more than one conflicting will exists at the time of your passing without the new will expressly revoking the prior wills, then there may be a will contest requiring the assistance of an estate planning litigation lawyer.
Legal Help With the Estate Planning Process
When drafting trusts or a will, you should be clear about your intentions. The goal is to avoid will contests, allegations of undue influence, and conflicts involving estate accountings. Should any of these issues emerge, surviving heirs may want legal assistance. To speak to an estate planning litigation lawyer, turn to the Knee Law Firm. Call our office in Hackensack, NJ, at (201) 996-1200.