Reasons to Make Changes

Once you have your will written and witnessed, don't think you are finished. You will want to revisit the contents of your will every once in a while, and most particularly in the following circumstances:

  • You marry or divorce.

  • You move to another state — remember that each state has its own rules.

  • A child is added to your family, through either birth, adoption, or remarriage.

  • An aging parent or other dependent joins your household.

  • A change is needed in your designated guardian, executor, or trustee.

  • A family member suffers a permanent disability.

  • There is a change in your life insurance coverage.

  • You purchase property in another state.

  • You inherit or purchase property.

  • Assets you have, including property, jump in value.

  • Any of your heirs changes marital status, has children, or dies.

  • There is a significant change — up or down — in your financial situation.

  • You desire to change how your assets will be distributed.

  • Tax laws change.

In short, any time a major life event happens, it should be a trigger for you to pull out the will and see if it still reflects what you would want to happen if your death were imminent and you couldn't be here to take care of business for your loved ones.

If you only want to make minor changes to your will, you can write them in the form of a codicil, a formal amendment. Even though it is formal, sometimes it is simply a list of items you want to designate specifically for grandchildren, friends, or others. You may write an entirely new will at any time revoking any and all previous wills.

Most recently dated, signed, and witnessed wills usually trump earlier versions. In some states, events such as adoption or divorce change the validity of a will. Ask your lawyer about any similar “catches” in your individual state law.

Keep your will in a safe, fireproof place. Let your executor know where you keep it. If you choose to store it in a safe deposit box at a bank, make sure your executor can get into the box. Some states require banks to put a freeze on safe deposit boxes following a death until the contents can be accounted.

Following a divorce you probably will want to remove the name of your ex-spouse as a beneficiary. You may no longer have sole right to name a guardian for your children, if you have in mind someone other than the children's other parent. You will also want to review and change beneficiaries on life insurance policies and retirement accounts at the same time you are changing your will to reflect your divorce. Should you remarry, the whole process kicks in again.

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