Creating your Will or Living Trust is a very important decision you should make. However, it is not something you can do once and forget about.
Your Will or Trust is a “snapshot” of right now. Too much life tends to happen going forward that often makes it necessary for you to periodically update your Will or Trust. An update is generally desired after the 5 to 10 year mark.
However, if nothing has changed in your life since you drafted your Will, there is usually no need to update your Will. Unless changed, once your Will is drafted, it is valid forever.
Typically, over time your needs, wants and circumstances will change. A Will created many years earlier may no longer reflect your current desires, or needs.
Another change in circumstance to consider are the laws. Since your first Will or Trust was created, the laws and other public developments may have changed or been created. These changes can have an impact on your Will. The possible changes, creation, or update in law, is not a cause for concern, but something to be aware of. This is also a good reason to work with an attorney who focuses on estate planning.
The following changes in your life should immediately cause a review of your Will:
1. A change in marital status. Marriage makes the new spouse a pretermitted heir. A divorce might not cut the ex-spouse out of the Will.
2. Children are born or adopted. State laws allow unmentioned children to claim a portion of an estate as pretermitted heirs. These children, however, might not receive under state law what the decedent would have given them.
3. Step-children. In most states, step-children of a deceased person have no rights to inherit under a step-parent's estate. Therefore, if a step-parent, or commonly, if a step-grandparent, wishes to make dispositions to a step-child, that intent must be specifically stated in a Will.
4. Estate Value. The value of the estate changes and the earlier gifts were too much, too little or there is now enough to give to others as well.
5. Death-or- Health Changes. The intended heirs, executors, guardians or trustees have died or he or she are no longer in good health to be able to carry out this role.
6. Laws. Changes in estate or inheritance tax laws that make changing the Will advisable. Also, HIPAA laws are becoming much more stringent and your Powers of Attorney should reference them. Or, have you moved from one State to another? Are the laws of the new state similar or not? Would updating your Will or Trust benefit you after a move?
7. Needs. The necessity for testamentary trusts for surviving spouse and children no longer exists.
A Will should be reviewed every few years for possible changes. Tax laws change frequently and Wills should be reviewed to ascertain their effect on the estate.
An important and very likely change in our lives is moving from one state to another. I have covered whether or not to update an out-of-state will before here. If you have recently relocated, I encourage you to read that post. However, the short version is that just moving from one state to another does not necessitate an update to your Will. There generally are other factors involved, but the move alone is not one of them.