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When and why should I update my will?

Posted on December 29, 2017

As a responsible parent or guardian in Missouri, you have made a will to ensure that your children have guardians should you die, and that your belongings go to those you want to have them. Those are important directives. However, a will is not a “one and done” task. As you go through changes in your life, your will should reflect that, along with changes in finances.

Forbes suggests that you update your will every five years or sooner depending on a variety of circumstances that may prompt changes in your will. If you are already a parent but want to grow your family, each new addition signals a change that should be reflected in your will. Along with naming guardians, you need to provide for children financially. The same applies to new grandparents too.

When your spouse dies, your whole world changes. If you inherited from your spouse, you must update your will to reflect new beneficiaries and/or larger inheritances, as well as income tax benefits that your own heirs may benefit from. You may have given your spouse durable power of attorney to make legal and financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated. If so, you now need to give it to another.

Should you be diagnosed with a terminal illness, you need to review your estate plans and ensure they are up to date. You can give up to $13,000 annually to anyone without paying a gift tax, but be sure to tell recipients to cash checks right away. If you die before they cash the check, that money becomes part of your estate. Whoever you give power of attorney should also be able to disperse these gifts.

Your investments may take either a good or bad turn, which can affect your inheritance. If you are sitting on something you expect may be a great investment, consider transferring it to an heir before it grows in value to avoid gift taxes on larger amounts.

Your attorney should be aware of changes in the tax law may affect the amount of money you can transfer, as well as other financial changes that can affect your estate. It is always a good idea to stay up on changes yourself as well, to prompt discussions and to aid in your understanding.

This general information is provided for your education, and should not be taken as legal advice.