Old man reviewing will document with young lawyer

Reviewing and Updating Your Will

Law Office of Robert L. Firth June 9, 2023

Creating a will can seem like a huge task, which is probably why so many people put it off until they are old or seriously ill. Every adult should have at least a basic will. If you have one, you are ahead of approximately two-thirds of American adults.   

That said, having a will is not enough. Your will reflects the circumstances of your life at the time you executed it, such as what type of assets you owned and your marital or partnership status. We all know that our lives change over the years. So, just like those updates you have to run to keep your smartphone apps current, you need to run periodic updates to your will.  

At the Law Firm of Robert L. Firth, we have helped hundreds of clients like you not only create wills but also bring them up to speed as their lives evolve. If you live in Cathedral Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, or Palm Desert, California, or anywhere in the Coachella Valley, and you don’t yet have a will or estate plan, we can help. If you have one but think it might be time to review and update it, we can help you do that as well.  

What Are the Basics I Should Know About Updating My Will?

We know it’s easy to just stow away your will and hope you or your executor remembers where it is. However, wills are not designed to be created once and then forgotten. All the careful thought you put into planning for your legacy will likely not apply by the time your will is filed in the probate court.  

If you’re wondering, “How often should I review my will?”, we have a recommendation. Things change fast these days, so plan to review your will at least once a year to note items that may no longer reflect those changes. Schedule an annual review that you can remember so you actually get it done, just like changing the batteries in your smoke detectors every time daylight savings time begins and ends. For example, reviewing it on April 15th after you file your income taxes may be a good time to get that task completed.  

Although you should note the potential changes you notice in your will, we strongly recommend that you also review it with your estate planning attorney. You know what has changed in your life. Your attorney knows estate planning law. That combination makes it likely that any changes you need to make to your will can be made.  

What Types of Events Require Changes to My Will?

Significant life events dictate when you should change your will. For example, if you enter a domestic partnership, get married, or get divorced, you should revise your will. Here are some of the circumstances that will prompt a revision: 

  • As you accumulate or lose assets subject to probate, you should change your will. Because those assets will go through probate, as opposed to going directly to someone via a title or transfer on death or beneficiary designation, you need to address them in your will. 

  • If you start a business, you may need to address the business succession plan or partnership agreement in your will. 

  • If there are relevant births or deaths, you will need to update your will. Also, while your children are minors, you can use your will to designate a guardian for them. 

  • You can change the beneficiaries named in your will. This includes individuals and organizations, such as a favorite charitable cause or an alma mater.  

  • You will name in your will the person you want to serve as executor of your estate. Your choice of executor, guardian of your minor children, and even the individuals you choose to witness your signature on your will may change. You will need to change your will if you change your mind.  

How Do I Change My Will?

Of course, you can change your will as often as you want or need so long as you have the mental capacity to do so. Moreover, you can choose whether to revise your existing will or draft a new one from scratch, which leaves you wondering, “Should I change my will or draft a new will?” 

Revisions to an existing will can be made using a codicil. A codicil is an addition to your will that revokes, modifies, or supplements its provisions. Depending on the scope of the changes you want to make, codicils can be tricky. Changes to one paragraph in the will may affect others, so you will need to ensure that one change is maintained consistently throughout the will. It is also extremely important that provisions you no longer want are specifically revoked. If the will lacks consistency, your changes can be easily challenged in probate.  

Although it takes longer and costs a little more to draft a new will, doing so will minimize confusion. You will revoke the existing will in its entirety and replace it with the updated one.  

Protect the Future of Your Loved Ones

Wills are all about leaving a legacy to those you want to benefit from that legacy. You want to make those decisions, not the probate judge. Just remember that the judge will be working with the circumstances at the time of your death, so you want your will to reflect those as contemporaneously as possible.  

If you need a will or estate plan or want to review and update an existing one, let us provide you with peace of mind. Call the Law Office of Robert L. Firth in Cathedral Springs, California, today.