A legally-binding will provides detailed instructions on how your assets are divided among friends, family members, and loved ones after you pass. The document puts the force of law behind your wishes. It may also create substantial tax benefits in conjunction with effective estate planning. The unwelcome alternative would be to allow the state to disburse your wealth and personal property under its guidelines.
For those who have taken the proactive step and created a “last will and testament,” it’s important to keep in mind that your will requires ongoing updates. In a sense, they are living documents that reflect your changing life circumstances. One of the unfortunate mistakes people make is to let a well-crafted will become outdated. These are critical reasons to meet with a will attorney to make revisions periodically.
Address Requirements of Your Will
For your will to carry the full force of law, it must meet specific criteria. These fundamentals include demonstrating an in-depth understanding of your wealth and how it will be distributed. In legal jargon, this is called “capacity.” Everyday people sometimes call it being of “sound mind.”
That being said, other provisions include designating an executor to oversee the distribution process, naming heirs, guardians, and how debts will be paid. To finalize your wishes, it must be witnessed and signed by you and two other people. While these elements may appear to put the issue of having a will to rest, this vital document should emulate changes in your life, as well as external forces you have no control over.
Reasons to Consult with a Will Attorney
If you looked back on your life just 10 years ago, it probably was a lot different in terms of finances, family, and relationships. It stands to reason that if you worked with a will attorney to craft one, then all of those things were different in large and small ways. While it may not be necessary to make adjustments every time something shifts, consider updating your will if any of the following significant changes occur:
Changes to the Law
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act overhauled tax law at the federal level. Its ramifications include items such as tax-free gifts to spouses and family members among others. This shift may have a substantial impact on your estate planning. This example highlights the fact that tax and other laws change at state and federal levels. When such revisions to laws impact your financial portfolio, it may be prudent to speak with a will attorney.
Improved Financial Circumstances
Success in a career, business, or other venture is likely to improve your financial health and well-being. That uptick in wealth is a key reason to update your will periodically. For example, if you have X amount in savings, stocks, other holdings, and designate dollar amounts to loved ones, what happens to the unaccounted for wealth? These types of situations can lead to uncertainty and disagreements among loved ones. The last thing you want is to cause friction between the people you love.
As mentioned above, the idea of a person being of “sound mind” can become a critical issue after you pass. When health factors cause acute pain and cognitive and emotional challenges, it may be in your best interest to revise your will before your health diminishes. This issue may be leveraged by greedy parties seeking more than you wanted to leave to them. That’s why experts say there is never a wrong age to create a will.
Divorce, Separations, and Relationship Changes
It’s important to keep in mind that the last incarnation of your will enjoys the force of law. That means that an ex-spouse may be entitled to the wealth and personal property you outlined in your most recently updated will. A recent marriage or the birth of a child or grandchild may not be adequately addressed unless you sit down with a will attorney and make revisions.
If you have experienced or anticipate significant changes to your wealth, family, or other unique considerations, it’s imperative to revisit the details of your will. At France Law, we work with everyday people to make revisions to wills that deliver your legally-binding wishes. Contact our office today and schedule a will consultation.