Give Your Will a Check Up
As I speak with attorneys about estate planning there are two common issues in our conversations. First, only 25% of all people have a will or trust. Secondly, of those that complete a will or trust, very few keep them up-to-date. No matter how thoroughly it is prepared, your will or trust is a living document that needs attention on a regular basis after it is completed. Your life and circumstances change over time and your estate plans should reflect those changes. Some of the things that can bring change are as follows.
- People Change. Your relationships with people named in your will may have changed over the years. New people enter lives through births, adoptions and marriages. Others included in your plan may not be active in your life due to death or divorce. Has anything changed in the lives of the people named in your will (heirs, representatives, guardians, trustees, or executors) due to death, mental incapacities, a handicap or serious injury, health problems or relationships?
- Assets Change. Since the execution of your will: Has your estate experienced a substantial increase or decrease in value? Has there been a significant change in income or wealth of either the person making the will or a beneficiary? Has there been a change in business ventures either positive or negative? Have you added or dropped life insurance since your last review?
- Places Change. Have you have moved out of the state in which you executed your will? You should consult an attorney in your new location to determine whether it is still valid. State laws regarding the execution of wills vary.
- Laws Change. Tax laws are constantly changing both on the state and federal levels. Consult your attorney.
- Time Changes All. If you haven’t reviewed your will in the last three years or more, it is time for a review. The best course of action is to return to your original will, review it and make certain that it’s been updated according to your changing needs. An even wiser practice is to do it annually. You should be aware of the age at which you are required to begin taking distributions from your IRA, 401(k), or other qualified plan. Generally, you can begin taking from your plan at 70.5 years old.
Wills are valuable tools that make possible a smooth transfer of your assets to heirs and charities upon your death. Your will should be reviewed and given regular check ups throughout life and certainly when any major changes have taken place.
Regional Vice President – East
Missouri Baptist Foundation