Updating a last will and testament or a trust may be necessary one or more times after the initial creation of the estate plan.
Many ask, “Why should I update my will or trust?”
Chances are you are used to the concept of routine maintenance.
Hair and nails need to be cut and trimmed.
If you have a vehicle, you must regularly get your oil changed and tires rotated.
While an overdue haircut will likely not cause any real issues, neglecting proper maintenance for vehicles and other property can be both dangerous and costly.
Neglecting the updating of a last will can be equally detrimental.
A last will reflects the wishes of the testator at the time the document is created.
If the creator of the last will lives for an extended period after the creation of the document, life circumstances will likely change.
Reviewing an estate plan regularly allows you to make necessary amendments to address personal changes and state law updates.
As an Overland Park estate planning attorney, clients from both Kansas and Missouri often return to me to review and update their estate planning documents.
At times, these are for joyous reasons.
Other times, these reviews and changes result from unfortunate life circumstances.
What Life Events Necessitate a Will Update?
This is a crucial inquiry when it comes to estate planning.
Allow me to pose eight questions individuals can ask themselves as they assess whether it is time to give an experienced estate planning attorney a call.
Have You Recently Married or Divorced?
Marriage is typically one of those joyous occasions giving cause for a review of a will or trust.
Divorce tends to be one of the more stressful reasons for an estate plan review.
Updating a last will after either of these events is essential to addressing both beneficiary wishes and how marital status is impacted by state tax and estate planning law.
Do You Have Children or Grandchildren?
Whether you or an adult child has given birth to or adopted a child or grandchild, another person is now a part of the family.
In addition to loving one more person, you should also take steps to protect and provide for this loved one through updating your last will or trust documents.
Have You Moved to a New State?
Whether you have moved to Kansas from Missouri to Missouri from Kansas or to either of these states from another state or country, you will need new estate planning documents.
State laws governing estate planning and tax liability are not universal.
Although everyone is subject to federal estate and gift taxes, states vary in the taxes they levy and how they require wills to be executed.
As a result, working with an experienced estate planning attorney in your state of residence is essential to addressing these nuances when updating a last will or trust.
Do You Have Changes in Your Financial Situation?
Estate tax obligations are dependent on the value of the estate.
It is common for income and assets to change throughout life.
Those who experience significant decreases or increases in the value of their property can benefit from changing their estate planning documents to reflect these circumstances.
Failing to do so could lead to challenges in distributing your estate after you have died.
Have You Acquired New Assets?
Whether you use a trust-based or will-based plan, your comprehensive estate planning needs to address all of your property.
As you accumulate new investments, property, or personal items, you must include these in your last will or trust.
Updating your last will or your trust ensures you have included instructions for your personal property.
Changes in Tax Law?
Throughout your adult life, you have likely noticed the government likes to change laws.
Federal and state legislators especially like to update tax laws.
As a citizen and resident of the United States of America, these changes apply to you and your estate.
While the federal government taxes apply to everyone, Overland Park, Kansas tax law will vary from Kansas City, Missouri tax law for residents of these locations.
Neglecting to update your estate planning regularly could leave your loved ones with significant tax liability.
Do You Want to Change Your Executor?
Naming an executor for your estate is accomplished with a last will.
This individual follows your wishes and directs your estate through probate.
If your chosen executor is no longer able to fulfill these responsibilities or your relationship with the person has changed, then you will want to select someone else and reflect this change by updating a last will.
Have the Circumstances of Your Beneficiaries Changed?
Your beneficiaries will also experience relationships, income, and residence changes over time.
Any of these can impact their needs as heirs or your wishes as the testator.
For example, your child could marry or divorce.
If you do not like your new or former son- or daughter-in-law, you may want to make adjustments to protect any inheritance from this person.
Even after asking themselves these eight questions, many people still wonder about updating their estate planning and seek external sources for answers.
What are some common inquiries regarding updating a last will?
How often should I update my will?
The blanket recommendation is to review your estate planning documents every three to five years.
If significant life changes happen before this timeframe, it is wise to make updates immediately rather than wait.
Do I need to update my will if I have a blended family?
Blended families tend to require more complex estate planning.
If you recently combined two families through marriage, you should update your will or trust to protect and provide for your children.
Do I need an estate planning attorney to update my will?
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney will ensure that changes to your last will or trust documents are legally valid and executed correctly.
What are the key takeaways regarding updating a last will or a trust?
You should review your last will or trust regularly and update as needed to comply with the latest state laws and protect your heirs.
Keeping your inventory of assets updated will help you to include all of them in your estate plan.
Your executor should be capable of fulfilling the role and responsibilities of following your wishes.
If you are uncertain about some of the terms referenced above, fear not.
Simply keep reading for explanations.
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is the compilation of legal documents addressing the management and distribution of assets after your death and your affairs after incapacity.
Common estate planning documents include powers of attorney, healthcare directives, last wills, and trusts.
What is a beneficiary?
A beneficiary is an individual who is designated to receive assets from an estate or benefits from insurance policies, investments, or accounts after you have died.
Beneficiaries can be organizations like charities or individuals like spouses, children, or grandchildren.
What is an executor?
The executor is the person granted the legal authority through a last will to administer your estate after you have died.
The responsibilities of this role include paying creditors, disbursing assets to heirs, and filing tax returns.
What is an estate tax?
An estate tax is levied on estates after the owner of the assets has died.
The amount owed depends on the value of the estate.
Because the taxes require a significant portion of the estate to be paid to the government, it can reduce the inheritance your heirs receive.
The federal government and some states levy estate taxes.
Whether you have recently moved to Overland Park or the surrounding areas in Kansas or Missouri or have been a longtime resident, you may need to create or update a last will or trust.
Contact my office to start getting your affairs in order to protect everyone you love and everything you have.