You’ve taken the time to make your will, but now you’re wondering, when does it need to be updated? Read on for some of the most common situations!
You Separate From Your Spouse
Recent amendments to the Succession Law Reform Act provide that if spouses are separated the will of a deceased spouse will be read as though the surviving spouse had predeceased them. However, there are several reasons why you should still update your will:
- The new provisions have not actually come into force yet (and it has not been determined when they will);
- Even under the new provisions, the spouses must meet a specific set of criteria to be considered separated, and in all situations there would be a period of time after separation where the spouses would not yet meet the criteria in the Act, so if you passed away in this interim period, your separated spouse could still inherit from your estate;
- Often spouses may plan gifts to each other’s families when making their joint estate plan – even if the will is read as though your spouse has predeceased you, this will not affect gifts to their family members, who you may no longer wish to benefit.
Your Finances Have Changed
Often an estate plan is structured based on the assets available for distribution – different assets may have different tax consequences (or present different tax planning opportunities) and a change in the level of your wealth may lead you to prioritize your giving in different ways. If your will makes specific gifts of certain assets which you no longer own, you should consider how this affects the overall plan. If you have acquired new assets you should consider how they fit into the plan that you have in place. If you have acquired or transferred existing assets into joint names with another person, this may have a huge effect on the distribution of your estate.
Your Family Has Expanded or Shrunk
If you have gained a new child, grandchild, or spouse since you last did your will, you should review your will. A new child or spouse means new obligations to those individuals in terms of providing for them from your estate. A grandparent does not usually have an obligation to support a grandchild, but in the writers experience, the existence of grandchildren often prompts testators to reconsider their plan.
If one of your beneficiaries and/or executors has passed away or is otherwise not in your life anymore, you should review your will to ensure that it still meets your needs. If you have a question about how your will is affected by these kinds of situations, obtain some legal advice! Of course this list is not exhaustive and, the fact is, that from time to time laws that affect your estate plan do change. It is a good idea to review your will with a lawyer every 5-10 years to ensure it still meets your needs and is appropriate considering the current state of the law.