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The 7 Times When You Should Update Your Will

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

One of the great, and sometimes difficult things about life, is that it is always changing. This brings to each of us new experiences and relationships. These changes could bring to us new and different people that we spend time with and love, new financial circumstances that could affect the assets that we own and the debts that we owe, and new circumstances based on our beliefs.

At the Racine law office, we recognize that life isn’t static. We’ve assisted our clients for more than 70 years in creating, and when necessary, updating their customized estate plan so that it provides for the people they love, and accomplishes exactly what our clients want. In other words, changing or updating an estate plan is a common and good thing to do when the circumstances merit it.

A basic estate plan consists of a written last will and testament that allows you to distribute your money, property, and other assets to those you love when you pass away. It also includes a durable power of attorney which gives you the ability to appoint someone to help you take care of your property and finances if you are no longer able to do so on your own. Additionally, a good plan includes a living will which gives you the ability to make your own end-of-life decisions. A well-thought-out plan also includes a healthcare power of attorney which gives you the ability to appoint someone to help you make healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated and are unable to make these decisions on your own. Finally, depending on your circumstances, your estate plan may also include one or more trusts for minor age children, or children with disabilities or addictions, or because you want to spread your distributions of your estate out to your children, grandchildren and so forth.

All of these things are listed in our free Estate Planning Questionnaire that you can download from our website to help you get started with your own estate plan. We encourage you to download this Questionnaire and to begin compiling your information to help you have a better understanding of how estate planning can help you individually. We also offer a free 30-minute consultation to go over the Questionnaire and to answer any questions you have about how estate planning can help you, your family and your loved ones.

So, after you have your plan completed, when should you update or change it? Below is a list of the 7 main reasons or times when you should look over and update your estate planning documents.

1. You Get Married

The best place to start is with some of the happy moments that occur in life. One of these is when you get married. When you do this, you have included a new person into your life. Because of this, if you already have an estate plan, or you are getting one done for the first time, you should include your spouse as a major part of your plan.

You will likely be naming your spouse as your personal representative, or your appointment for your durable power of attorney. Additionally, you will likely be naming your spouse as your primary beneficiary who will receive your money, property, and other assets from your estate after you pass away.

2. You Have a Child

The second major change that could occur in your life that is also a happy one is when you have a child born. When this happens, you obviously will want to include your child as a beneficiary in your written will and possibly in a trust. This update or change should occur every time you have a child born.

If you have a written last will and testament or trust that was created before a child was born and does not name that child, the law in Idaho still provides for that child but when this happens there is no control over a distribution that is made to that child. In other words, that child would have a statutory right to receive their portion of your estate when they turn 18 regardless of whether you think they would be ready or not to receive it. For this reason, any time you have a child born is a good time to review your estate planning documents and make changes that would add that child as a beneficiary.

3. You Get Divorced

The next major change that could occur in your life is being divorced. If you created an estate plan while you were married, you likely included your spouse both as a beneficiary and as an appointee through your various documents. Now that you are divorced from that person you likely will no longer want them to be a beneficiary or the pointy in any way. This makes a divorce a great reason to review your estate plan and make sure that it is updated and accurate.

4. Your Named Beneficiary Has a Problem (Disability or Addiction)

Another reason for updating or making a change to your written estate plan would include when you have a beneficiary that is named who has a problem. The most common problems that exist would be a disability or an addiction of some sort that makes it a bad idea for you to distribute any money, property, or other assets from your estate directly to this individual.

For example, if you had a child named as a beneficiary in your estate and that child develops substance abuse addictions you will likely not want to leave money directly to them. Rather, you may want to make a change to your estate plan to create a trust that will still provide for this child without giving money or other assets directly to this child which could make their addiction issues worse.

5. Your Children Become Adults

Making a change to your written estate plan when your children become adults is also important. Many parents will go to the effort of creating an estate plan when their children are young. This is a great idea. However, in most circumstances, everyone lives for several decades after that has happened. If you have an estate plan that you created when your children were young, but now your children are all adults, it’s likely you will want to make a change.

Having adult children gives you more options on who you can list as the appointees or successor appointees as the personal representative, for your power of attorney, and so forth. For this reason, when your children to become adults, you should consider making a change to your estate planning documents.

6. You Purchase Property in Another State or Country

Another good reason for making a change to your written estate plan is if you end up purchasing or owning property in another state or country. When this happens, complications arise if you were to die and a probate needs to be completed. There would need to be an original probate in the state where you resided and an ancillary probate, or a second probate, in the other state(s) or countries where you own property.

To avoid this, you can utilize a trust too own and hold property in another state. When that happens, there is no need for a probate, and the trust will control the distributions of that property after you pass away.

7. The Person You Appointed Can No Longer Help You

A final good reason for updating your estate plan is when the person you appointed can no longer help you. For example, let’s suppose that you list a family member or good friend to act as your personal representative to carry out the instructions you have in your written last will and testament. Let’s say this person becomes disabled, or they move away to another state, or worse, they pass away. In this event, you would need to name a different person to act as your personal representative.

As you can see, there are many good reasons for updating your written estate plan. If you have questions or concerns about your current estate plan, or you would like to create one for yourself or for a family member or loved one, we encourage you to contact us for a free 30-minute consultation where we can answer your questions and help you move forward and getting your estate plan done. We have assisted thousands of clients and are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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