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When to Update Your Will

March 9, 2017

     A last will and testament is an important document to have for many reasons. Without one, assets, upon your death, will be divided according to the laws of Ohio. With one, assets you owned at your death will be divided according to your wishes. There are a few life events and changes, however, that can throw a wrench into the most carefully laid plans. If you don’t adjust your will accordingly, there’s a chance your last wishes may be ignored in favor of the default rules. 

     Family. One of the primary reasons for establishing a plan (“estate plan”) for your assets after your death, is to protect your family. In a will, you may appoint guardians for minor children and provide for your spouse with a specific bequest or testamentary trust. For better or worse, family situations change. Keep your plan as current as you can. Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney are meant to meet the needs of you and your family.

     Assets. The second reason for establishing an estate plan is protecting and distributing assets. If, upon your death, you want your wedding ring to go to your daughter or Uncle Larry to receive your 1973 Honda Civic, there are circumstances where these gifts may not be given to these people. These circumstances include the death of a beneficiary or the need to sell assets to make sure that all probate costs, fees, and expenses are paid for. Also, if you have significant assets that could be given to minor children, it might be wise to set up a trust that distributes income to your children for specific expenses such as education, medical, or housing until they reach the age of 21.

     Geography. What happens when you move or leave assets in another state? Most states honor estate planning documents drafted out of state, but each state has different rules on what those documents may do. If that will is rejected or deemed invalid, however, the probate laws of your domicile state will control. If you own property in two different states, your executor may be required to administer the estate in multiple states and jurisdictions. Without a plan for assets in multiple states, probate costs will increase substantially and administration may be extended for years. 

     A general rule of thumb is to review your estate planning documents every one to two years, or after significant life events. Significant life events include marriage, divorce, birth, death, closer relationships, or strained relationships. Additionally, there are yearly updates to probate law and changes to state and federal tax codes that may affect your plan. Estate planning documents are flexible, but time sensitive. It is important that these documents serve your needs and reflect your last wishes. Consult an estate planning attorney to help you better plan for the future.

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