Many clients ask, “How often should I update my will?” You should consider updating your will whenever there is a substantial change of circumstances in your life.
Life Changes That May Lead to Changes in Your Will
Some of the most obvious changes include getting married, getting divorced, the birth of a child, or possibly the birth of a grandchild. For instance, many clients want their assets to be split among their spouse and children, but this mindset could change once a grandchild is born. The gift of a grandchild often inspires grandparents to consider another gift: a portion of a grandparent’s estate.
Other fortuitous events, such as winning the lottery or receiving a large inheritance, may be reasons to revise one’s will.
You should also update your will in the event that your named executor is no longer able to serve in this role. For example, if your named executor passes away before you or becomes incapacitated and there is no named alternate executor who is able to serve in that role, delay and uncertainty could cloud the administration of your estate.
Similarly, if a beneficiary under your will passes away, this could result in your assets being inherited by an unintended beneficiary.
A properly drafted Last Will & Testament should account for common contingencies in life, such as death and incapacity, but it cannot address every possibility. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep a copy of your will easily accessible and to review it on a yearly basis. Be sure to keep your original will in a safe place and use only your copy for review.
There are other, less obvious, reasons for updating your will. One reason is a change in relationships. Some relationships break down and others are created. Another issue to keep in mind is a change in the tax laws. Currently, estates valued at under $1 million are exempt from New York State estate tax, and estates valued at under $5.25 million are exempt from Federal estate tax. However, certain estate planning techniques could minimize negative tax consequences. If the tax laws change, as has happened frequently over the past decade, you might need to consider revisions to your will.