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Why and When You Should Review and Update Your Will

James P. Peterson Attorney at Law Jan. 30, 2023

Old man reviewing Will document with lawyerSo many people believe that creating and executing their will is a one-and-done proposition. You spend time with your attorney, discuss the contents of your will, make crucial decisions, sign and date it in front of witnesses, then lock it up, never to see the light of day until you die.  

Depending on the time that passes between executing your will and your death, life could change drastically. When the time comes for your will to be filed with the probate court, circumstances could render your will inappropriate or even virtually useless.  

Reviewing and updating your will is just as important as creating one in the first place. That is why James P. Peterson Attorney at Law helps clients from San Antonio, Boerne, and New Braunfels, Texas, keep their wills in lockstep with their lives.  

How Often Should I Review My Will? 

There is no set schedule for when you should review your will to see if you need to update it. However, James P. Peterson recommends a periodic review to keep pace with changing laws affecting estate planning and changing circumstances in your life.  

Of course, you can pull out your will and review it on your own, but you may be better served by reviewing it with your estate planning attorney. Your attorney will be aware of any changes to laws that need to be addressed in your will and other documents. Your attorney will also ask you key questions, and your answers may compel revisions to the existing document.  

In most cases, a will review and even an update will take far less time than you spent creating the original document. If you worked with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in the first place, the foundation is already there. You simply need to keep it relevant.  

When Should I Change My Will? 

When you should change your will depends on what changes you have experienced in your life. Updating your will should reflect related life events: 

  • Marriage or divorce. You can see how marriage or divorce since you created your will affects who benefits from your estate. You want to include a spouse and probably want to exclude a former spouse.  

  • Birth or death of children or grandchildren. The same holds for the birth and death of children and grandchildren. If you name a daughter as a beneficiary of your estate and the daughter predeceases you, what do you want to happen with her share? Those are the kinds of decisions you need to make so there is no confusion when your estate is administered in probate court after your death.  

  • Changes in assets. The accumulation or loss of assets or the ownership or sale of a business are also reasons why you should review and update your will. Moreover, if you established a trust after you created a will and transferred ownership of personal assets to the trust, your will should reflect those changes.  

  • Change of mind. You should also change your will if you have simply changed your mind about people named in it. For example, you may decide you want someone else to serve as executor of your estate. You may want to eliminate the name of someone you used to want to be a beneficiary. If you named a guardian for a minor child in the will, you may want to name someone else or eliminate that provision altogether if your child is now an adult. Or, if you now want someone to benefit from your estate who signed as a witness to the existing will, you will probably want someone else to witness an updated will to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.  

How Do I Change My Will? 

When you change your will, you have two options: destroy it, or draft a new one. Although you can do either, drafting a new will may be the safer route to take.  

Sometimes changing a will involves adding what is referred to as a “codicil” to the existing will. A codicil amends the existing will, revoking a paragraph you no longer want and executing one you do, for example, eliminating a beneficiary.  I recommend just doing another will. Better to have everything in one document.

When you create a new will, you revoke any and all prior wills, which eliminates confusion and makes it difficult for someone to challenge the last will you execute prior to your death. The will is rewritten entirely to reflect the changes you want to make. Executing a new will rather than editing just a paragraph can help prevent making any other paragraphs in your ambivalent. Instead, you begin with a clean slate that clearly expresses your wishes.  

In either case, it is wise to work with an experienced estate planning attorney when updating your will, to avoid possible challenges that would be raised in probate.

James P. Peterson Can Help 

For more than 30 years, James P. Peterson has been helping clients, like you, in and around San Antonio, Texas, keep their will pertinent to whatever life changes they experience. If you have not reviewed your will or wonder if you need to update it, he can help. Call James P. Peterson Attorney at Law today to schedule a meeting with him.