The past few years have been extremely stressful and busy for most people. While we've all been trying to adjust to a new way of doing business and managing our lives in a new manner, many things have fallen to the back burner. One common item that falls to the bottom of the list is an update of your estate plan. If that's you, don't feel guilty, you're not alone. Many of the people who come to meet with me know that they need an update to their documents, but they've put it off for a little too long. If you haven't updated your healthcare documents, that's a great place to start - you want to make sure you've got the right people designated for your healthcare decisions.
When it comes to wills, one common scenario I encounter is a couple with children who are now grown. When the children were young, they smartly set up a will. Many of them also included a trust or other estate plan device for their kids. But now the children are older, most often graduating college or already graduated. All of that smart planning from years ago just doesn’t make sense with their current situation.
Do I Need A Whole New Will?
Depending on how involved the original planning was, some people may be intimidated to do a whole new will (By the way, the process shouldn’t be intimidating). Hopefully, you had a good relationship with the drafter of your will. You spent time reviewing the document and understood what it says. Your questions were answered. You kept it in a safe place. And most importantly, you never had to use it.
It’s far too common that I meet with people who did not have that type of experience and they tell me,
- They don’t understand what they signed;
- It was many years ago and they went along with what they were told to sign.
When we sit down to review the documents, they find that what they signed was not what they necessarily wanted. Many of them were talked into an expensive and overly complex will that doesn't actually distribute their legacy the way they intended. Especially in these types of situations, a new will is probably in order. If you’ve had a bunch of changes to your family, your old will may not be relevant to your life today.
What About A Codicil?
For some people though, the will doesn’t need a lot of changes. Perhaps you just want to change a personal representative. Or maybe your brother has really been annoying you and you want to change what he gets. In these types of situations, you can use what is called a “codicil” to make a change to your will. A codicil does not require a full redrafting of your will. You can think of it as an amendment. If you are just changing a small item, it can be a cost-effective way to make those changes.
Whether you need a codicil or a total re-drafting of your estate plan is an individual question. There’s no universal right answer other than to talk to an attorney who can give you some advice on what is best for you.
You May Also Like
- Specific Distributions and their Role in Your Estate Plan
- How Do My Assets Get Transferred When I Die?
- How Do I Personalize My Estate Plan?
If you don’t have a will yet, or if you have one that you may need to update, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session to review the best options for you to protect your legacy.