Revise Your Will: Guiding Change for Peace of Mind

Reflect Your Current Circumstances in Your Will

At James H. Wilson, we recognize that the ebb and flow of life bring about significant changes, and these changes should be echoed in your legal preparations, especially your will. A will that mirrored your needs a year ago may not align with your current circumstances. Our aim is to ensure that your will is an accurate reflection of your familial and financial status.

Take note of life events that signal it’s time to reconsider the details of your will and examine beneficiary designations associated with insurance policies and bank and retirement accounts:

  • Marriage introduces a spouse who may be legally entitled to a portion of your estate upon your passing. A review of your estate plan becomes necessary to address your new marital status and protect your spouse’s rights or, if desired, set alternate provisions through legal counsel.
  • Entering into a partnership without marriage necessitates a will or an alternative estate plan to ensure your partner’s inheritance. This is crucial as intestate laws do not recognize unmarried partners for estate inheritance.
  • Divorce necessitates a fresh will, as different states have varying laws on the impact of divorce on an existing will’s provisions concerning a former spouse.
  • The birth of a child is a momentous occasion that should prompt the appointment of a guardian within your new will, to secure your child’s future if the need should arise.
  • When stepchildren become a part of your life, updating your will reveals your intention about their potential inheritance, as they are not automatically included under normal circumstances.
  • Acquiring or disposing of substantial assets implicates specific gifts within your will, requiring updates to avoid unintended outcomes or to include new acquisitions in your legacy.
  • Moving between community and common law property states can shift the ownership stakes in marital property, thus mandating an estate plan review.
  • A change in your beneficiary desires for a significant portion of your property is a clear indicator that a new will is essential to reflect your updated intentions.

Methods of Will Modification

Revisions to your will can be added in two ways, one of which is through a “codicil” – an amendment or addition to your existing will. Although codicils were more common in the past, we now recommend that you consider creating an entirely new will to prevent any potential for confusion or conflicts.

Creating a new will is straightforward and advisable. In your new document, a simple declaration such as “I revoke all wills and codicils that I have previously made” can ensure that your newest wishes are the only ones recognized. It is prudent to collect and destroy existing copies of your older will to avoid disputes.

Updating Other Estate Documentation

Your estate plan is more than just your will. Assets such as retirement accounts, bank accounts, stocks, and life insurance policies have designated beneficiaries independent of your will’s directives. To address any changes in beneficiary preferences, check and modify those respective designations as necessary.

For alterations within a living trust, amending the initial agreement is the typical process, and property may need to be realigned with the trust accordingly. Unlike a will, a complete revocation of a trust is generally unnecessary.

We recommend routinely evaluating your overall estate plan to assess if new changes are warranted. Annual reviews offer reassurance that your evolving wishes are consistently honored.

For assistance in updating your will or any other estate planning needs, call James H. Wilson at 804.740.6464. Our dedicated team is here to guide you through these critical legal decisions, ensuring clarity and comfort for your future and the future of your loved ones.

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