Why You Shouldn’t Take a “Once and Done” Approach to Wills

You met with an attorney and finished your estate planning. Your wills and other documents completed and in hand, you sigh in relief. You’re done now, right? Not necessarily!

Review wills, trusts and other estate planning documents at least every five years to ensure they are still set up to do what you want them to do.

The most common reasons to update estate planning documents include the birth or death of a loved one, a change in financial circumstances, acquisition of additional or different real estate, a change in wishes for distribution of assets and a change in who you initially named to fulfill fiduciary roles such as guardianship for minor children, trustees of a trust or the executor or administrator of your will.

If, after reviewing your existing documents, you determine that something needs to be changed or updated, an estate planning attorney can help determine if it makes sense to make the changes through a codicil or amendment, or if starting with brand new documents might be a better option.

With a codicil or amendment, you keep the existing documents and simply add to them, identifying the articles or paragraphs changed. As a general matter, codicils or amendments work well if you are making small changes to your existing documents, such as changing the named executor or administrator or adding a child’s name to the document.

In other situations, however, it is preferable to start with “fresh” documents. For example, if you are changing the distribution percentages or the beneficiaries’ names, you may not want to show the “paper trail” of amendments to the ultimate beneficiaries. By having brand new documents prepared, you effectively revoke and completely replace the original documents.

If it has been more than five years since you reviewed your existing documents, we encourage you to dust them off and read through them.

To discuss possible changes to your plan or documents, please contact us.

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