Wills often have to be modified, amended, changed or otherwise “refreshed” for a number of reasons. It is not unwise to review one’s Will once a year for this purpose to see if it still reflects a person’s wishes and whether something has occurred during the intervening 12 months that requires an amendment. Below are some of the events which may trigger a need for changes and cause one to update their Will to better or more accurately reflect their estate plan.
Revisions, modifications, and changes to Wills are often done in instruments called Codicils, although it is not the only way revisions can occur. Codicils should be executed properly in compliance with the legal requisites just like a Will has to be. Failure to properly execute such an instrument may make it invalid or otherwise unenforceable. In addition to ensuring proper execution, it is important to preserve and maintain the original of a Codicil after execution just as it is to preserve and maintain the original of a Will. A copy does not have automatic equivalent stature in the eyes of Kentucky law.
When Getting a Divorce
When getting a divorce, it often is very important to refresh one’s Will to extinguish any former bequest, devise or estate plan which favored the former, or to be former, spouse. This may require changes too on the beneficiary designation forms on various financial accounts, together with any deeds or other legal instruments related to joint ownership of assets.
If an Heir Dies
If a potential heir dies, it is beneficial to review the Will to make sure that the property will still pass in the manner intended. Often, one may intend for the offspring or issue of the deceased heir to inherit as a result, but one must be sure to provide for that in the correct language. Alternatively, if one intends for a deceased heir’s share to pass to someone outside the line of direct lineal descent of such heir, then the Will must state that clearly.
When Buying Property
When purchasing property to leave to a specific heir or otherwise deciding to specifically bequeath or devise particular property, it is probably a good idea to consider any changes to a pre-existing Will. Specific bequests or devises may be required in an amendment or they may have to be deleted depending on the circumstances. At such time, consideration will also be given to alternative methods of transferring property under State law such as certain provisions in a deed or other applicable joint property principles.
When a New Heir Is Born
Whenever new heirs are born, regardless of how distant, it is probably wise to make sure one knows how the Will relates or does not relate to that heir.
If Relationships Have Changed
While one may have wanted to leave a best friend a sizeable inheritance a few years ago, sometimes relationships change. These sorts of things can be reviewed regularly to reflect required revisions.
Similarly, charities sometimes change complexion or otherwise lose favor, necessitating either a change in the amount of a bequest or resulting in no bequest at all. Accurate statements within one’s Will or Codicil is the best way to accomplish the objectives of one’s estate plan.
When The Estate Has Changed
If someone made a string of good investments and his or her estate is suddenly much larger, he or she may want to take a second look at how much she is leaving each of her heirs or how the pie is divided and among whom. When the percentage being left each heir is not equal, one should be precise as possible to avoid conflict in the probate process.
Whenever there are changes to heirs or the size of the estate, it’s a good idea to talk with an attorney about the need and way to properly refresh one’s Will to reflect the current desires.
If you think that you need to speak with an experienced Louisville Attorney about any of these issues, contact Ilam Smith today!