How Often Should I Update My Will and Other Estate Papers?

Some people set up their will and other estate documents and then pretty much forget about them until the time comes to put them into action. This “plan” is never a good idea.

The younger you are when you first set up your estate plan, the more things in your life will cause you to need to update your estate documents.

A good rule of thumb is to review your estate plan documents every three to five years or whenever there is a major life change.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the times you need to think about reviewing and updating your will and other estate papers.

Update Estate Documents Because of Changes in the Law

Laws change regularly and do so from state to state. You have to consider the laws in effect when you first prepared your estate papers. It is essential to make sure that the current laws are still relevant concerning your estate plan.

If or when laws change and your estate documents are not updated to reflect those changes, you face the risk of having your estate plan fail you or your heirs at critical moments. 

You should always work with a great estate planning attorney to ensure your estate plan will change as needed due to updates in law or policy. 

Update Estate Documents Because of Changes in Life Circumstances

Life is full of changes. People come and go in our lives; moving and changing dynamics of family and friends due to significant life events. Here are several major life changes that require revisiting your estate plan:

Marriage — Newly married couples will each want to review any estate plans they have already made and amend them to take into account their new life. Marriage creates new assets, new relationships, and more.

Divorce — Divorcing will likely cause you to want to change at least part of your will and estate plans. No longer will you be likely to want your former spouse in the position of inheriting your assets. 

Birth — The birth of children or grandchildren also requires a revisiting of your estate documents. You should also consider other additions to the family, including adoption, or very close friends or caretakers.

Death — Has the person you chose as executor of your estate died?  How about someone else designated in your estate plan? You need to update your estate documents.

Even if someone not specifically set to inherit parts of your estate has died, you may want to revisit your plan.  For instance, if a parent passes and leaves significant resources to someone named in your will or estate plan, you might wish to change your distributions upon your passing.  Or, if your spouse passes, you may wish to revise parts of your estate plan, such as the healthcare power of attorney, or living will documents.

Changes in Finances

Finances change regularly. A change from one job to another that is similar is not necessarily a reason to have to revisit your estate papers, but if you change careers and are making a lot more money or a lot less, you will want to make sure this is accounted for in your paperwork & plans.

Examples of reasons for revisiting your estate plan for financial reasons: you inherited a large amount of money, you lost a good amount in stocks, or you bought or sold large items such as a house or vehicle.

An Easy Way to Remember All of This:

If all this is a little overwhelming, that’s OK.  We get it. 

To simplify things, we refer to these situations as the “Six D’s”

  • Death of a beneficiary or other close family member or friend named in the documents;
  • Disability or a new diagnosis of a beneficiary or other close family member or friend named in the documents or your own disability/diagnosis;
  • Divorce, either your own or the divorce of anyone named in the documents;
  • You reach another birthday date (a new birthday): as you age, your needs may change so you may want to review your documents when you turn a year older;
  • Dividend of riches from inheritance, unexpected windfall or lottery;
  • An appreciable geographic distance has occurred between you and those you have included in your plan.

Don’t Let Changes Confuse You

At times, change can cause confusion especially in regards to your estate plan.   We help families like yours reduce confusion and update their estate plan to meet their current situation. 

Our experienced staff at Atlanta Wills + Trusts Law Group by Refeca Law LLC are ready to answer all your estate planning questions so you can have peace of mind knowing that things will be as you wish when the time comes for your estate plans to be put into action.

Contact Us Today!