Having a will is one of the most underrated ways to eliminate some of the admin for your family in the event of your death. According to Forbes, nearly 2.5 million Americans die each year, with many not having signed the basic documents needed to protect their loved ones.
And even when you think you’ve got it all figured out and everything’s on paper, life throws a spanner in the works and you’ll be sent back to the drawing board. Many believe that a will is something of finality. In reality, your will should be updated and revised on the back of every significant life event.
In this article, we will highlight a series of life events that are cause to review and sometimes overhaul your will.
Where there’s a will… you know the rest!
There are major misconceptions about who should have a will, and Pure Financial has shed light on the common misconception that writing a will is only for the wealthy – a widely but incorrectly held ideal.
Experts worldwide agree that financial planning is second to none in ensuring that your loved ones are looked after in the event of your death, whether or not your bank account is teeming! After all, we all know the story of brothers and sisters who became estranged without a will once their parents had passed. Or the spouse who was left disgruntled when her husband’s wealth was ceded to the state.
As a general rule, people are advised to update their will after every three to five years to make sure that it still expresses their wishes. And this is because life happens at the most inconvenient times, when a will may not have been at the top of your mind.
However, a grim and unsettling reality for many is that when they pass, their estate is left up in the air and at the hands of the state – providing ripe ground for in-fighting and severing family ties, simply due to negligence over the years.
Having a will does a stellar job of eliminating at least some of the admin that accompanies an untimely death; even more so, it does wonders to mitigate the dreaded red tape for the executor splitting your estate after your death.
When you devise your will, you remove the burden of an executor having to apply their discretion, making for a much smoother and equitable division of your estate upon your death.
Commonly, people devise a will once in their lifetime and then never quite look back. The nature of life, however, is one where the tides are continuously changing – with people and things coming and going. For this reason, one of the smartest moves you can make is revising the distribution of your estate after every significant life event, be it marriage, the birth of a child, or even an increase in assets, among others.
A Marriage of Convenience
Marriage is usually a prominent enough life event to warrant that you go back to the drawing board to see who ought to get what. For many people, leaving their spouse with the bulk of their estate is a means to honor the living spouse for years of matrimony and service. And so one can imagine the disdain of a spouse left out of pocket or otherwise unawares when it comes to the division of their partner’s estate.
Conversely, a spouse may also be left disgruntled after the death of a partner when they’re saddled with unhappy creditors and a phone that just won’t stop ringing. This is why estate planning acts as something of a shield to families, young and old, offering them peace of mind when the unexpected strikes.
More than this, a spouse excluded from your will simply due to negligence may have to endure court proceedings whereby they litigate to contest your original will if they feel they were unfairly excluded.
Remember when we mentioned spouses honoring one another through the leaving behind of estates? This one also rings true in the case of a messy divorce. When divorcing on whatever grounds, it’s wise to revise your will, especially due to the shifting of loyalties during this time. Divorce can be hard on all the parties involved, but what worsens this is family fights that ensue all because of an outdated will. This is preventable.
Perhaps the separation was amicable, so you’re content to have your spouse receive their keep as originally stated upon your death. The opposite may also be true, and you may want to redistribute your former spouse’s portion as the final dagger if things don’t end so amicably.
Whatever the circumstance, estate planning alleviates a small portion of he said/she said mess that comes with divorce litigation.
Having Children and Growing Children
Having or adopting children is a cause for reviewing your will as they will have to be included as minors first. Parameters will consist of your chosen parental guardian in the event of your death.
When you neglect to have a will upon having or adopting children, and the unfortunate reality occurs that you pass on, the state will dictate guardianship over your children. We can’t imagine that any parent would want the apples of their eye tossed around in an incapacitated foster system.
Needless to say, the guardianship portion of your will should be updated with every new addition to your family. This way, you can ensure that your children go to the same guardian and that the family unit remains somewhat intact even when you’re no longer present. Your will also offers the capacity to leave instructions for the care of your children, the portion of your wealth they will inherit, and the distribution of money for their day-to-day expenses.
Similarly, as your children grow older, their needs change, and they become adults. Reviewing your estate once your children are of age is particularly important since when they turn 18, they are fit to become full-fledged beneficiaries in your will. Here, you get to decide upon the division of your assets and most prized possessions among your children.
The Shifting of Assets
All of the above are changes that occur in your life due to the ebbing and flowing of your relationships. However, one of the most important reasons to revise your estates is in the event that you come into or stand to lose a significant amount of your wealth or assets.
It may be wise that you would include this in your will whenever acquiring an asset such as a new car, house or business. And since these things don’t happen all at once, you should frequently re-evaluate your will as your asset profile increases or decreases – a vital tenet to asset protection at Kalicki Collier.
If you fall upon tough times and certain accounts are closed and assets sold off, you will also need to remove these items from your will; else, you’re looking at the recipient having a bad case of sour grapes when they come to find what was due to them is no more.
While revising your will may be last on your list when having that big move across states, it’s something to consider keenly. The reason being administrative requirements for executing wills often differ from state to state. If your original will is missing information or documentation required in your new state, this can be an even bigger nightmare for your personal representative trying to make sense of an incomplete will as per state law.
This can also make it difficult for an executor to fulfill your will, given that it was legislated in your former state. And worse than this, your family may find themselves stuck in the middle of less-than-ideal probate proceedings where they have to prove your will to the court – a costly business overall.
By updating your will, you remove this burden from your family as they process the grief accompanying your death. And considering all the things that come with an untimely passing, from funeral arrangements to life insurance claims, to comforting relatives, allows us to alleviate the burden of dealing with the legal stuff.
When you update your will diligently and on the back of the life events mentioned above, you offer your family the tranquility of knowing your wishes are fulfilled, and they are looked after long after you’ve gone. The idea is that if you prioritize an updated will now, you save yourself and your family many tedious hours of costly court battles and go far to keep the state out of what should be your most personal affairs.