When to Update Your Will

Events in your life which significantly change your priorities or mark a change in direction for you overall should cause you to think about updating your Will.  Significant life events affect your legal obligations and how you may want to handle your estate.  There are many life events which may cause you to update your estate plan, but a few of the most common include:  1)  the birth of a child;  2)  change in relationship status;  and 3) a significant change in assets.

The Birth of a Child

There are many ways in which the birth of a child will affect your estate planning choices.  With children under the age of 18 years, you will want to make sure they are not only in good hands if the worst should happen but that they are also financially provided for in your Will.  Your Will is the legal document where you may designate the guardian of your child’s person and property in the event of your death.  Your Will also allows you to ensure that any assets you leave to a minor child will be properly invested and used for the benefit of that child.  There are several ways to ensure your child receives the financial support he or she needs and the birth of your child is an opportune time to review and update your Will.

Relationship Status Change

The beginning or the ending of a relationship will likely have an impact on your legal obligations and your estate plan.

In Saskatchewan, a change in relationship status to married or common law automatically invalidates your Will unless the Will was made “in contemplation” of becoming married or common law with your current spouse.  Spouses may have a legal claim to each other’s estates, which may only be waived in a Prenuptial or Cohabitation Agreement.  For example, you make a Will after your second marriage and leave your entire estate to your children from your first marriage.  Without a Prenuptial Agreement, your spouse from the second marriage may be entitled to part of your estate regardless of what your Will says.  If you die without a Will in this same scenario, your spouse from the second marriage may inherit the majority of your estate with only a small portion going to your children from your first marriage.  The same is true for common law spouses.

Similar to becoming married or common law, separating from a spouse has an affect on your Will and your estate plan.  After married spouses divorce or common law spouses stop living together for 24 months or more, any gifts in your Will to your former spouse become invalid.  If you appointed your former spouse executor of your estate, this appointment is also invalid.

Regardless of the type of change in your relationship status, your estate planning priorities will likely be impacted and you should consider updating your Will.

Change in Assets

Any substantial changes to the value of your assets, up or down, is a reason for you to review and update your Will.  Depending on the nature of the change to your assets, you may also want to discuss with a lawyer the best estate plan for you.

If you have left a specific gift, such as a piece of real estate or a family heirloom, and you sell or make an alteration to the item gifted, you will likely want to revise your Will accordingly.  If you purchase or receive new assets which you want to specifically gift in your Will, you will want to ensure your Will reflects your wishes regarding these new assets.

Over time, your priorities and what you want from life changes.  Because you want your Will to reflect your final wishes, it is a good idea to regularly consider whether it needs updating.