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When Should I Change My Will?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on June 24, 2016 7:00 AM

This post was updated on March 30, 2022

A will makes the lives of those you love easier after your life ends. It lays out your intentions for the inheritance and disposal of your belongings, whether that includes money, property, stamp collections, or sewing machines. You can pass whatever you cannot take with you to the living.

If you wrote your will years ago, however, there's a decent chance that your will is not of much use to anyone if a lot changed in your life and your loved ones' lives since you created it. Whenever circumstances change in a way that could affect who receives what from your estate, you should revise your will.

What is a circumstance that demands a change? That depends. Let's look at some examples.

Changed Circumstances

Any number of changes may affect your will. Life is unpredictable, and the order of events is unknown to all. There are always changes, such as:

  • Marriages
  • Babies
  • Divorces
  • Deaths

So changing your will may be necessary due to the birth or death of someone you intended to pass along assets to. And these don't just apply to you. If you wanted to leave something specific to an in-law, but then a divorce occurs, you may want to pass that asset on to someone else.

There are also countless examples of unique life experiences that may change your will that you never thought of before, such as a financial disaster or windfall (like you inheriting something from a loved one) or the sale of property that your will includes. Obviously, you can't pass on land you no longer own. So if, for example, you sell an asset, that may mean changing your will to reflect the assets you actually own.

There may also be changed emotional or familial circumstances. Family life can be turbulent. Sometimes people fight and fall out of favor. You are under no obligation to leave anything to someone you are not speaking with, so family troubles can certainly lead to will changes.

That said, remember that a lot of feelings may not be permanent. Don't change your will every time you fight with a friend or a sibling. A will is a reflection of deep intent, and you should not deal with it superficially. Change your will when it no longer reflects your true intent or the actual circumstances.

What If You Forget?

If you have no will, your estate will be disposed of through the laws of intestacy in your state. Your state's intestacy laws will lay out the division of property among family members and who receives priority. If you have no children or parents, the statute will identify who is next in line to inherit your estate.

But if you don't have a will already, the good news is you can create one pretty cheaply — and from the comfort of your home — with FindLaw's help. After you complete the purchase of a will from FindLaw, you can update it at any time.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are concerned about your estate plan or your will, talk to a lawyer and learn more about your options. There may be alternatives to a will that can better suit your needs that you never knew about.

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