A lot of people have the idea that writing a will is a task they will only need to complete once. Failing to review a will and make changes periodically, however, can have unintended future consequences, such as an unintentional disinheritance of certain heirs or the distribution of portions of the estate to unintended parties.
Most people experience changes in their lives, and their wills should incorporate those new events. There are several types of changes that should prompt people to review their wills. Changes in the family, such as having a new child, getting a divorce, remarrying or marrying for the first time, all should prompt a will review. A new child should be added to the will. A person who divorces may need to draft an entirely new will or at least a portion of it as a court may decide the will naming the former spouse is invalid.
Remarrying can pose its own issues, as the estate will pass through the spouse to his or her heirs instead of children from the testator’s first marriage. The will should also reflect the new spouse as well. Finally, when someone marries for the first time after a will, the will should be changed to add the spouse. People may believe their entire estate will pass to their spouse, but that is not always true. Without a will naming the spouse, he or she will be entitled to the statutory portion under state intestacy laws, with the remainder going to children or the testator’s parents.
It is advisable for people to review their wills on a regular basis. If, upon doing so, people notice needed updates or changes, they should consider consulting with their estate planning attorney for guidance on how to proceed.
Source: Kiplinger, “Good Reasons to Change Your Will“, December 21, 2014
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