When should you update your Last Will and Testament?

It’s a common statistic that 65-70% of adults have not written their Will, however, one of the lesser reported stats is that the majority of the Wills that are in place, are out-of-date and should have been revised. The difficulty of course is that finding the time and money to create a Will in the first place can be prohibitive, so booking an appointment and paying the same professional fees again to make a change to that Will is out of reach for most people.

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Unfortunately, when you create a Will with a lawyer or solicitor you really have no idea how long that Will is going to last. By the time you get home from the lawyer’s office, your Will could be out of date. There’s a standard set of reasons for updating your Will that you’ll find on many lawyers’ websites. These include obvious things like a change in marital status, birth of a new child or the death of a family member or beneficiary. Clearly, updating a Will immediately having a child may not be at the forefront of your mind, and sadly we do see countless examples of parents of young children not getting around to writing a new Will immediately after a child is born.

In reality though, the need to update a Will is more nuanced than that. You not only have to look at changes to your own situation, but also any changes in circumstance of anybody, or anything, mentioned in your Will. So, here’s a little test, which of these situations might prompt an update to your Will?

  • The person that you have named as your Executor has been convicted of a crime and is serving time in prison.
  • The person that you have named as personal guardian for your children has had triplets of their own
  • You have purchased a new summer property
  • Your daughter has got married
  • Your son is proving to be extremely irresponsible with his money
  • Your alternate Executor has died
  • You have sold your house
  • Your Executor has changed their name

I think for most of these examples, the recommendation would be to update your Will, but when you are working with a legal professional, it may seem an expensive and inconvenient proposition to book an appointment to make a relatively trivial change. This is why many people are turning to online services like the ones at LegalWills.ca , LegalWills.co.uk and USLegalWills.com. These services allow you to set up an account, from which you can update your Will whenever you need to. You then make the change, print the new document and sign it in the presence of two witnesses to create a new legal Last Will and Testament.

Some people update their Will every few months based on their interactions with the people around them; a dinner party gone wrong, a snubbed invitation, an unwelcome comment about an inheritance. You are certainly free to update your Will whenever you wish, but going through this exercise every time a beneficiary falls in and out of favour will not necessarily result in your estate plan reflecting your final wishes. It may make more sense to update your Will after a change in circumstance rather than a change in heart.

The most important message is that an outdated Will can be worse than no Will at all. You should double check your Will whenever there is a significant event for anybody mentioned in the document and make any required changes. At a bear minimum you should read through your Will once a year to confirm that it still reflects your wishes and that your instructions can still be carried out.