Wills and trusts are binding legal documents, but that doesn’t mean they’re written in stone. They can be altered as the circumstances in your life change. In this blog post, we will review why you may need to update your will, living will or trust.
1. Marriage or divorce
If you’ve just gotten married, you’ll want to determine what portion of your assets should go to your spouse following your death.
If this is a second marriage or you have children from a previous relationship, you may need to consult with an estate planning attorney on how to provide for all your loved ones.
And although getting divorced usually cuts your spouse out of your will, you’ll still need to determine other matters, especially if your will had called for them to serve as your executor or guardian of your children.
2. Having a child
If you have children, and die without making – or including them in – a will, the court can dictate what happens to your estate.
Having a trust is a good plan for when your children are younger. But once your children are older, you may want to rethink a trust and just include them in your will. And as you get older, you may need to think about long-term care and retirement planning.
3. New people
A lot can change in a decade, or even a few years. You might have new people you want to add as beneficiaries in your will. Maybe the person you picked as a trustee five years ago has proven themselves untrustworthy. Maybe your choice of guardian or executor is no longer in the picture, and you need to find a new person to handle your arrangements according to your living will.
In any case, it’s a good practice to review your will once a year and ask yourself if the choices you made when it was created still stand. If not, it’s time for an update.
4. New assets
There’s a good chance you have more money now than when you created your will. If you’ve earned a significant amount of money – or inherited it from someone else – you’ll need a plan to keep estate taxes low.
And now that you have more money, you may be able to leave your heirs with more than you first anticipated, or give something to your favorite charity.
At the same time, a marked reduction in assets means it’s time to reassess how you’ll give away your money following your death
5. New tax laws
Tax laws may have changed since your will was written. Many wills written years ago are now outdated because they included trusts created to avoid estate taxes, which have changed dramatically in the last 15 years.
Most people leave their estate to a surviving spouse. But if your husband or wife is now in a nursing home on Medicaid, you’ve likely placed all the marital assets in your name to qualify.
If you die before your spouse, they will need to spend down large sums of money to keep their Medicaid qualification. Changing your will or trust can limit the spend down.
This might sound overwhelming, but don’t worry: you don’t need to walk this path alone. The attorneys at Gummer Elder Law are ready to assist you.