Most people will eventually get around to preparing a will. Middle age gives constant reminders that planning ahead is a smart and often beneficial thing to do. But, if you have already prepared a will, how long ago was it drafted? Life is unfortunately very unpredictable, and your preferences probably have changed, at least minimally, over passing time. If your will was created years ago, it is imperative that you inspect your copy and ensure that what is written still reflects your wishes.
Four major areas of change can dramatically affect what should be reflected in your will.
- Your assets: Any changes to what you own, build, or donate can change what is written in your will. Is your estate worth more now than it was when the will was created? Have you given some of your assets to charity, or plan to? Have you started a new business? Have you purchased something new and valuable that you want a loved one to have? Even if you think the changes may be minor, decisions for dispersing assets when the will is carried out may not be exactly how you planned it if those changes are not reflected.
- Your personal attachments: Families change in number, makeup and favor. While most changes in personal relationships are good – adding family because of a marriage, a new romantic relationship, or birth of new grandchildren or great-grandchildren – some may not be as enjoyable – a relative that has broken ties, a divorce, or a death in the family. You may wish to consider revising certain aspects of your will to make sure your wishes include these changes, good or bad. Reviewing your will is recommended following any significant changes in your family and personal life.
- Your current residence: If you have moved recently, there may be ramifications for your will. Moving to another state may invalidate your will. An attorney can determine whether there are any issues with validity and a new location may handle property, probate, and estate and inheritance taxes.
- Your taxes: Taxes change. Not only will that affect you and your estate, but also any beneficiaries. Efficient tax planning is key when there are changes to wealth, assets and circumstance. An attorney who specializes in estate planning can help you stay informed.
Consider reviewing your will when the following milestones change:
- Upon birth or adoption of a child, grandchild or other family member
- Following a marriage or divorce
- When someone named in your will passes away
- When children, grandchildren or other heirs reach adulthood
- Upon changes in your executor, guardian, and/or trustee’s circumstances
- When the value of your estate significantly increases or decreases
- Upon starting a business
- Following changes in tax laws
- When you are approaching age 70 1/2 (when you are required to begin taking distributions from your IRA, 401(k) or another qualified plan)
- Following a move to a different state
- Following diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness
If questions or adjustments arise, then it is time to make an appointment with your attorney. At Carlson & Burnett, we have a team of attorneys who specialize in Estate Planning and Medicaid/Long-Term care planning. We subscribe to the belief that “What’s in the family, should stay in the family!” Contact our elder law attorneys at Carlson & Burnett to schedule a consultation at (402) 810-8611 or contact us online.