Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is Your Will Up-to-Date?

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On any given evening or weekend afternoon when I am asked to speak on the basics of estate planning and probate there is one question I always pose to the audience.  Does anyone here not have a will, if so raise your hand.  Inevitably, about one third to half the people in the room raise their hands.  However, those who do have a document need to ask the question, is my will up-to-date?  If not, they are likely in the same boat as those without a document.  

Once the hands are in the air my response is, actually you do have a will.  Since you haven't taken the time to write on, the State Legislature had and it is located in the statutes.  Those without wills and those with out-of-date wills are leaving decisions about who does what and what happens to stuff up to the courts to decided.  Most likely everyone is better equipped than a probate commission and a set of statutes to make those decision.

Below are examples of ways in which a will can become out-of-date:
  • written prior to the arrival of children, meaning it does not address guardianship or securing funds in a trust if both parents die;
  • since it was drafted key people have died or fallen out of your life (i.e. the personal representative, trustee, guardian, or the charity you were going to leave your car to); and
  • a named charity has changed it's name and your will does not state "or its legal successor organization".
Wills, well written ones, should last you decades.  However, life happens and they can become out of date.  My personal thought is you should review them every 5 years or so and make sure they reflect your current wishes.  And if a major life event happens (marriage, birth, death, split), pull them out and see how the documents address that situation.  

Remember, a blog is not legal advice.  Please consult an attorney in your state for advice specific to your situation.  And thanks for reading!

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