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When life changes significantly, it is time to update your will

Creating a will is an important part of making sure that your affairs are in order when the time comes, and if you have a will in place then you already enjoy at least some of the protections it provides.

However, a will cannot do its best work protecting you, your loved ones or your estate if it falls out of date. Many life events may impact your will, and it is always wise to amend your will as you experience major changes.

Gaining or losing beneficiaries

Some of the common life changes that impact a will involve gaining or losing the people closest to you. Unless you have an unconventional list of beneficiaries, this typically involves your immediate family and loved ones.

Any time that you gain a family member through birth, adoption or marriage, it is important to amend your will and make sure that you include the newly added beneficiary. Along the same lines, any time that you lose a beneficiary through death, divorce or estrangement, it is wise to update your will.

This is particularly important when it comes to your own spouse. If, for instance, you create a will while married to your first spouse, then divorce them and remarry someone else, the first spouse and the second may have significant conflict resolving the will if you do not update it. In many cases, spouses have implied rights to a certain amount of property, and may complicate matters if the will does not reflect this change.

To keep your will up to date, it is also good to update it if your dependent child ages into adulthood.

Changes in your estate

It is wise to review and amend your will if your estate changes significantly. Any time that you gain or lose a major piece of property that you plan to leave to a specific beneficiary or intend for a specific use, it is important to update your will.

In broad strokes, it is best when a will leaves as little as possible to misinterpretation. Not only does this help ensure that your loved ones properly understand your wishes, it minimizes the likelihood that one party or another may challenge the will, which is always a concern.

Finally, you should review your will at least every four years, even if you do not experience any of these life changes. Estate planning law can change significantly with little notice or publicity, and you don't want to miss these changes.

Building a strong plan for the future is not something to put off. After all, the sooner that you review or update your will, the sooner your rights are protected and the sooner you can enjoy proper peace of mind.

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