Drafting a will and getting an estate plan in order helps ensure the fulfillment of your final wishes after you've passed. Even after you've drafted an initial estate plan it's important to keep this documentation up to date throughout the rest of your life.
It may seem as though your existing will is ironclad and represents exactly what should happen when you're gone. The reality is that many aspects of a person's life can change and have an impact on an estate plan over time. Some positive and negative life changes can prompt an update to a will, so consider some of the main milestones that could affect your long-term plans.
Times to update a will
Each person's life can bring any number of major milestones over time. Too often people wait until after these times pass to begin estate planning. Young, single people without children need to start planning for the future just as much as those who've reached those milestones.
Over time, new life changes will prompt an updated will and estate documents. Some of these instances include:
- Purchasing property
- Getting married
- Giving birth or adopting children
- Losing a loved one
- Getting a divorce
- Major increase or decrease in personal wealth
- Starting a business
- Illness or lifestyle changes
Changes to an individual's personal life may seem to be obvious indicators that a will needs updating. A plan should be in place for who will take care of children and establishing beneficiaries. If you've designated a sibling or other relative to execute your will or take guardianship of the children and that person dies, this is a crucial time to update your own estate plan.
Beyond personal changes, business and property matters need addressing in an estate plan. Particularly as a business grows or ownership changes, it's important to establish a succession or dissolution plan after an owner is gone. Personal and professional matters may even mix; one business owner gets a divorce but their estate plan lists a former spouse as beneficiary of the business. What's the resolution there? This is one potential consequence of an out-of-date estate plan.
Take the time to rework your will and estate plan over the course of your life. Changes, both good and bad, can impact even the most carefully laid plans. Give yourself and your loved ones the best chance of properly executing your final wishes with a well-maintained estate plan.