When Does a Will Become Outdated?

Estate planning is an important part of every family, no matter the size or structure. You should work with an attorney early on to make sure your wishes are carried out when you or another member of the family passes away. It’s imperative, however, to understand a will is not a “set it and forget it” situation. You will need to update your will as time passes.

Your Family Structure Changes

This should be the most obvious signal that a will needs to be changed. Did your family welcome a new baby? If you don’t update your will, the newborn will be left out of inheritances and other plans left for the other beneficiaries.

You should also apply this if a member of the family passes away. If you have a named beneficiary who does not outlive the will, the assets allocated to them will need a new home. Unless specifically outlined within your plan, those assets could be up for grabs and cause some headaches for your executor and loved ones to debate over.

You will also need to make changes to an estate plan if you or someone named in your will become married or divorced. You may consider a new in-law as a possible beneficiary, or you likely won’t want an ex-spouse or ex-in-law getting your hard-earned assets after you pass away.

Your Relationship to the Executor Changes

There is arguably nobody more important in your estate plan than your executor. You can set the perfect plan, but if you don’t have the right person in charge of carrying out your wishes it could all be for nothing.

There are a few situations where your executor may be outdated:

  • They die. In this situation, you will need to act fast to ensure you pick someone you trust and who is available.
  • They fall into financial or legal trouble. Not only could this be a problem for the courts should any disputes arise, but it will also be a challenge for the bonding process. This is where an insurance company insures you will should the executor flee with your assets. Insurers are less likely to insure your will if the executor is in financial or legal trouble.
  • You have a falling out. We’d like to think an executor could carry out their duties even if you weren’t on the best terms with them, but it can be tricky if they don’t have your best wishes at heart.

If any of these situations arise, you should work with your estate attorney to pick a new, more trustworthy executor.

Your Assets Significantly Change

This applies to when you come into more money or property, or if you fall on hard times and your assets are depleted. Your will may need to be updated if you have specific items or amounts being divvied up to different beneficiaries. If you no longer have those assets or that amount, the executor may be left to figure it out themselves or, even worse, the courts will need to get involved.

If you come by new money or property, it’s important to have a plan for where those will go. Sometimes those new assets can be used to pay off any remaining debts to allow the rest of the will to remain intact without risking debt responsibilities to fall onto your executor or beneficiaries.

An outdated will that allocates too much can get ugly. A beneficiary may believe they are owed the amount initially written into the will, so if you fail to adjust based on your actual assets this is bound to create some challenges. If you don’t have finances in order, it could also prevent your executor from paying off your debts which is an important step to take BEFORE beneficiaries start getting what is laid out for them.

You Need to Pick the Right Attorney

The right attorney will give you peace of mind when working on an estate plan. At Dublin Packard, we believe our experience speaks for itself. To get the right plan for you, contact us today!

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Todd Murphy

Todd Murphy is an estate planning lawyer in Morristown New Jersey where he helps modern families of all ages plan for the future.

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