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Reviewing and Updating Your Will

Caleb Bland Law, PLLC Aug. 29, 2023

If you’ve already written a will, you may be surprised to hear that you’re in the minority of Americans. According to a Gallup poll taken in 2021, only 46% of adults currently have a will in place. Having a will is important for a number of reasons including exercising control over your assets and ensuring your loved ones are looked after. However, if you haven’t updated or reviewed your will in a while, it may not be as effective as you think. 

Many of our clients come to us asking, “How often should I review my will?” and “How do I go about updating my will?” These are crucial questions to ask, and at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC, we can help. 

For estate planning help, including updates to wills, reach out to us to schedule an appointment. We’re able to help clients in the Elizabethtown, Kentucky, area and the following locations: Radcliff, Shepherdsville, Bardstown, Brandenburg, Leitchfield, Hodgenville, Louisville, Hardin County, Meade County, Grayson County, Breckinridge County, Nelson County, LaRue County, Hart County, Bullitt County, and Jefferson County. 

Updating Your Will 

After you’ve completed the initial task of drafting your will, most of the hard work will be behind you. The benefit of writing a will as early as possible is that it makes any revisions or changes much easier to make (as well as making them typically much less expensive). Your will should be reviewed regularly by you and your attorney, although there’s no set schedule for this. Many people choose to review on an annual basis to make it easier and to be able to respond to any changes in the law or changes in their lives. 

And, while you will no doubt be familiar with the contents of your will (after all—you wrote it), you should always perform your annual review alongside your estate planning attorney. Working with an experienced lawyer who not only understands the law but who will also take the time to understand your life and priorities will ensure your will accomplishes your goals. Regularly updating your will also reduces the possibility of family in-fighting when you do pass away because they’ll know you’ve recently reviewed it and they’re not looking at outdated information. 

When to Update Your Will 

Knowing when you should change your will is just as important as writing one in the first place. It’s essential that all your estate planning documents accurately reflect your assets, your personal goals, and your family’s needs. In most of the following cases, you’ll want to make an update to your will:

  • Marrying or divorcing: Most people choose to name their spouse or partner as one of the main beneficiaries in their will, and any time you divorce, separate, or remarry, your will should be updated to reflect this.  

  • Gaining or losing assets to be inherited: It’s not uncommon for people to gain or shift around assets well into retirement, which means you’ll also need to change your will along with it. If your will contains information about assets that are no longer there or fails to assign newer assets to a beneficiary, this could stoke conflict among your heirs. 

  • Adding or losing children or grandchildren: When leaving assets to children or grandchildren, it’s common to divide your wealth equally between them (for example, 50/50 between two children). However, if you have a new child and your will still only names your first two children, distribution will be uneven, and one child may be let out completely. 

  • Changing guardians, witnesses, beneficiaries, or executors: A will allows you to assign different roles such as executor, guardian of minor children, and beneficiary. If one of these individuals passes away or is no longer in your life, you’ll need to update your will and assign someone new. 

Making a Change (Codicil) vs Drafting a New Will 

One common question that comes up is, “Should I change my will or draft a new will?” or even “How do I change my will?” There’s no one answer to this, but essentially you have two options when you need to change your will: add a codicil or draft a new will.  

  • Adding a codicil: A codicil is often better for making simple changes in your will such as updating the name of an executor. Like a will, it needs to be signed and witnessed for it to be legally binding.  

  • Drafting a new will: Although this is best addressed with your lawyer, in many cases, it may be better to simply draft a new will, even for relatively minor changes. Much of the existing language can simply be lifted and placed into your new will, so the amount of work that goes into it won’t differ too much from using a codicil. Plus, if you make changes over the course of your life, you won’t have several different documents to keep track of. 

Take Your Next Choices 

If you’d like help amending or reviewing your will and live in or around the Elizabethtown, Kentucky, area, contact our team at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC to get started.