Life Events to Consider When Making a Last Will
Throughout life, there are different events that people take into consideration when making a will. Individuals often make one will, and then never broach the subject again. This is a mistake. An outdated last will and testament can cause serious problems during the probate process. It is important to regularly update your will so that it accurately reflects your current life stage. Major life events — such as marriage, birth, divorce, and death — typically affect how individuals distribute their assets. Therefore, your should regularly update your will to reflect these changes.
Consider how each of the following life events might trigger the need for a new will or updated will.
Life Events In Your 20s
- Landing Your First Full-Time Job. For the first time in your life, you are living on your own and earning a steady income. Ramen noodles are a thing of the past, and you can now afford to splurge on some life’s finer offerings. Your first job likely means your first real accumulation of wealth. Perhaps you are building up a rainy day fund, or saving to buy your first house. Whatever the scenario, now is the perfect time to begin the estate planning process. At this point, create a simple will that details your last wishes in the event of an accident is critical. In addition, most employer will pay for some sort of basic will.
- Getting Married. With marriage comes a new set of rights and responsibilities. Now, you automatically inherit from your spouse if he or she passes away without a last will and testament. Nevertheless, each spouse should create their own last will and testament. Having a valid will ensure that your spouse receives exactly what you want them to after you die. It also ensure that assets your wanted to distributed to individuals other than your spouse go where you want them to. In addition to your last will and testament, you should also consider supporting documents such as a living will, healthcare power of attorney and durable general powers of attorney.
Life Events In Your 30s and 40s
- Buying a Home. Homes are often an individual’s largest asset. Thus, it is critical your home passes to the correct individual upon your death. To ensure that the correct person inherits your home, make a will detailing your after-life desires.
- Having Children. If you have children, you want to ensure they are adequately cared for after you pass. Wills provide multiple layers of security for your children after your death. Your will may define the assets your children receive, as well as name guardians for your children until they reach the age of maturity. The appointment of a guardian for minor children is a serious decision, it is important to make sure that your last will and testament has provisions for the appoint of a guardian for your children.
- Getting Divorced. In most jurisdictions, a spouse’s right to an estate extinguishes upon a decree of divorce. This means that even if you do not update your will after a divorce, your ex-spouse will not inherit from your estate despite his or her name appearing on the will. Nonetheless, it is important to update your will after a divorce so that it accurately reflects your current circumstances. If you don’t, your ex-spouse’s portion of the estate may be distributed in accordance with your state’s intestacy laws, rather than your own wishes.
Life Events In Your 50s and Older
- Illness. When you are diagnosed with a serious illness, it is important to make sure that all your affairs are in order. This means making sure you have a last will and testament, a living will, and powers of attorney in place. While your last will and testament details your after-life wishes, your living will and powers of attorney ensure that you are well cared for in the event you are unable to make your own medical and financial decisions.
- Disputes and Reconciliations. Throughout your lifetime, you will fight with loved ones and reconcile with foes. Since these disputes and reconciliations could affect your after-life wishes, your will should reflect these changing relationships. Wills that do not account for these changes may lead to undesired distributions upon your death.
- Additions and Deaths. As you get older, you may have children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Additionally, you may suffer the loss of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Be mindful of the changes in your family, and make sure to add or remove beneficiaries to/from your will as needed. In addition, as you get older it’s important to make sure that the individuals you appointed in your will as executor or personal representative as still able and willing to carry out this important role. Likewise, end of life choice, healthcare agent and burial instructions all become important parts of an estate plan as you age.