When clients discuss the topic of Wills, I have heard one of two reactions. The first response, which is very concerning, is “Oh, I don’t have Will.” The other response is “Oh, I drafted a Will a while ago.” Upon further investigation, I find that they drafted their estate plan five years ago, if not more. The longest one that I heard was 18 years.
If a person passes without a Will, he is trusting a court to divide up all of his assets. The judge will not know what he would have given to each of his children had he written a Will. There is no way to know that it is important for Courtney’s tuition to be covered, or some money set aside for Mike’s down payment. Leaving such important decisions to someone so removed from the situation is irresponsible at best.
Many see the pitfalls of this thinking, and opt to write their first Will after a major life change, mainly getting married and having children. After this, they fall into a false sense of security, assuming that what they wrote in their late twenties still applies years later.
I find this concerning because a Will and Trust should be updated, or at a minimum reviewed, at every life changing experience. These life changes can be things that affect you both directly and indirectly.
Think back over the past five years of your life and ask yourself, “What has changed?” Marriage, birth, death, graduation, all constitute as change. If a parent has set up a guardianship for their children, they need to review it when their oldest child turns 18. If someone wants to ensure that gifts are given to grandchildren directly, at each birth the Will or Trust should be updated. The creation or dissolution of friendships and family ties are reasons to ensure that those you want remembered in your Will can be.
Although we tend to think that things don’t change, change happens more often than we consciously recognize. As we walk into a new year, make a resolution to take care of your family and estate.