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How often should I update my will?

Updating your estate plan is typically the last thing on the to-do list, but there are a few events in life where it might be more urgent to review it soon.

Changes in your family

The most common reason to make changes to a will or trust are when the beneficiaries change. New weddings or births bring families great joy and hope for years ahead, but a will which doesn't account for these new additions will need to be updated in order to leave anything behind for them. Likewise, when there's death or divorce in the family, especially if there are specific gifts listed for certain beneficiaries, this can lead to some unexpected conflicts unless the will is updated. Finally, a death in the family that leaves an inheritance for you might require a review to designate who will manage newly inherited heirlooms or family trust assets someday.

Purchases or sales

Just bought a new classic car? Recently sold your summer home in Florida? Stumbled upon some valuable antiques collecting dust at a resale shop? These are all great examples of times where a careful review might be needed to ensure that every item is going to the right person, or that an item that no longer exists is removed from the will.

New laws

Changes in Illinois probate law don't occur very often, at least not in a way that would affect the general operation of wills, but for trusts that account for certain tax laws, or for powers of attorney documents, recent changes in federal and state laws can affect the entire estate plan and require adjustments to be made.

New directions

Sometimes people just want to make some changes. For example, one may suddenly wish to leave a share of a trust to a charity, or ensure that a spendthrift son-in-law (for example) is kept from squandering gifts left for your grandchildren's college fund. These types of changes are most commonly not updated in time, and often lead to a contest, where one side argues "But that's what she wanted!", while the other side simply reads off the will. In most circumstances the words in the document will govern, so its a good idea to make these kind of updates with plenty of time to spare!