22 Jun 2018
While we may WANT to think that preparing a will is a one-time event, life happens – along with its many curve balls; relationships, preferences, circumstances and even assets change over time. It is therefore recommended that you review your will every three to five years to make sure it still reflects your wishes and desires.
Consider several reasons why you should review your will:
1. Change in Family Dynamics and Relationships.
The scenarios surrounding your family dynamics are endless, so it’s recommended you review your will following significant changes in your family and personal life. Death of a spouse, marriage, divorce or new family members are very good reasons to update your will. One or more of the beneficiaries (or even executors, trustees or proposed guardians) named in your current will may have passed away. Maybe a relative or child has since reached a certain age and you’d like to name them as executor.
2. Change in Beneficiary’s Status.
If one or more of the beneficiaries named in your will are experiencing problems, you may want to update it. Maybe you anticipate a beneficiary will need government benefits; an update to your will can provide for the beneficiary via a Supplemental Needs Trust, so as to not negatively affect their benefits. Perhaps one of your heirs is in an unhappy marriage or having financial problems. This may warrant their inheritance be placed in a trust instead of an outright disposition. These and similar scenarios should be given due consideration.
3. Change in Assets.
If you have experienced a significant increase or decrease in assets (including businesses, art, jewelry or maybe newly acquired wealth), you should review your will and estate plan. Maybe you sold a house which was specifically described and bequeathed in your will, and need to update your will to bequest a new house that you purchased.
4. Changes in Laws.
Federal and state laws are in constant flux. Case in point, the federal estate tax exclusion amount increased to $11.18 million in 2018, while New York’s estate tax exclusion remained at $5.25 million. If your will was drafted years ago, it could have language which contemplated a significantly smaller federal or state estate tax exclusion amount. Similarly, Medicaid rules have changed over the years, and your bequests can very well have a negative effect on one or more of your beneficiaries.
5. You Moved.
Different states have different rules when it comes to the way property and taxes are treated upon one’s death. If you have moved, especially across state lines, it is vital you review your will to ensure your wishes and desires are carried out in your new home state.
6. Charitable Giving.
Perhaps a certain charitable organization has helped you along the way, and you want to leave property to benefit it upon your death. An update to your will can effectuate this charitable giving.
7. Cannot Locate Original Will.
In New York, there is a presumption that if the you are in possession of your original will and it cannot be located upon your death, that it was revoked. This presumption is rebuttable, but not without significant challenges. If your drafting attorney kept your original will, you should check to see that he/she is still alive and/or practicing law. Locating an original will that was maintained by a deceased or retired attorney can often be time consuming and not always fruitful.
Once you locate your will, it doesn’t hurt to review it and make sure that it still effectively addresses your current wishes, desires, assets, tax plans, family and personal relationships.