No one really likes to think about what happens after they die, but once you’re gone, you’d like to know that your assets go to the people you love and not lost in the ether.
That’s why it’s important to keep your will up to date. How often you check it is really up to you, but there are a few pointers following that may ensure that all you’ve worked for is not for naught.
The first step is, obviously, to make your will. It should be clear and concise – that means it should accurately reflect your wishes with no ambiguity.
Once this is signed, you’ll need to review it after any major (or sometime minor) life changes, including to your health, finances, marital or family situation.
Sometimes, too, your will can be revoked or invalidated under certain circumstances, so you’ll need to prepare a new one. These circumstances may include marrying or entering a registered relationship after a Will was signed or divorcing a spouse or leaving a defacto relationship that began when your old will was signed. These situations may also end any Power of Attorney, unless you created your initial will in contemplation of marriage or divorce, in which case it will remain valid.
However, if your will is invalidated due to any of these circumstances, your estate will be divided according to your old will.
Your estate plan should also include plans for assets you cannot pass via your will, such as superannuation and any assets in a family trust. Ideally, you should review your estate plan every three to five years or in accordance with life changes such as those listed above, or if your financial or family circumstances change, a beneficiary dies, you have children or grandchildren, or your executor dies or becomes unfit to act on your behalf.
You may also need to revisit your estate plan if you sell or give away and assets listed in your will, buy significant assets, begin a new super fund or trust, or if the structures or entities where your assets are held are altered.
The most important point is that all of the necessary legal requirements are satisfied each time you make a change to your will, including any and all paperwork, signatures and witnesses, otherwise your wishes may be voided. So always seek the help of a professional rather than changing things yourself.
The slightest error could invalidate your will entirely, and once you’re gone, it’ll be too late to fix the situation.