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When should you update your will?

A will explains how you want your property divided after you die. While obviously important, only 6 out of 10 adults in the U.S. have sat down and created this estate planning document, according to a survey from Caring.com.

A will can provide peace of mind and clear direction to your family members struggling to cope with your death. Not only should you take the time to write a will in the first place, but you should also plan on updating it after you experience any big life event and periodically throughout your life.

Guidelines for when to update your will

Your estate plan should change as your life changes to reflect the people who come and go in your life. For this reason, you should update your will after any of these major life events:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • The birth or adoption of a new child
  • The death of a friend or family member included in your will

You should also review the document periodically, approximately every three to five years. This helps you account for any assets you accumulated since you created the original will and remove any property you may have liquidated.

The process for changing your will

To make minor changes to your will, you can file a document referred to as a codicil. For instance, consider filing a codicil when adding a newborn grandchild as one of your beneficiaries or when removing a sold-off asset from your will. This document replaces the old clauses in your will that you want to change with the new adjustments.

If you need to make major alterations, think about creating a new document. For example, write up an entirely new will with your spouse right after you get married or following a divorce. After making a new will, make sure you properly revoke and destroy your old one to prevent any legal issues following your death.