In life, there are many stages and many memorable events—first job, marriage, first house, and having children. Some people go their entire lives through all of these milestones without ever creating a last will and testament, and others never think to update their wills they have already drawn up when changes in their lives occur.
Because a will is a legal document that tells your family and the world who should receive your assets, it is important to update your will. Also, it is critical to create a will if you don’t already have one. If you have children and do not have a will, the courts will decide who will be responsible for your children upon your death. If you have selected a guardian for your children in your will, your wishes will be followed.
Importance of Updating Your Will
As a Georgia estate-planning lawyer, I urge you to update your will periodically so that it matches your wishes. So many people create a will and forget all about it; it just sits there and collects dust. What happens if the person you selected to be your children’s guardian upon your death is already deceased? Any time a life change occurs, it is important to update your will.
It is also wise to update your other beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and financial accounts. These take precedence over wills, so it is important that you have your beneficiaries up to date. For example, you may have listed your current husband as your life insurance, IRA, pension, and 401(k) beneficiary; however, you are no longer married to him and do not want him to receive your assets upon your death. You may want your new husband, children, sibling, or parent to receive your assets at your death, but you forgot to change your primary beneficiary on these policies. Unfortunately, your ex-husband will receive your assets in this scenario, which is why it is critical that you keep your beneficiary designations up to date as well as your will.
How Often Should You Update This Information?
The rule of thumb is to review your will and beneficiary designations once a year to ensure they remain current with your life changes and wishes. You should also update your will if any of the following occur:
- You get married
- You get divorced
- You have a child or adopt a child
- One of your heirs dies
- After you make a real estate purchase
- When major changes in your financial situation or investment portfolio occur
If you don’t have a lot of changes and don’t want to update your will every year, then you should review your will every five years to ensure it still matches your wishes. For help with your estate planning needs in Georgia call the Law Offices of Shane Smith at (770) 487-8999 to speak with a knowledgeable Peachtree estate-planning attorney today.