Change your will to reflect your current wishes and situation
- You get married . You and your new spouse should create new wills when you get married. In most states, your spouse is legally entitled to claim a percentage of your property after you die, unless you have a written agreement to the contrary. This includes married same-sex couples in Massachusetts. If you don’t want to leave at least half of your property to your spouse, see a lawyer.
- You are unmarried, but have a new partner . Without a will or alternate estate plan, such as a living trust, your partner will inherit nothing. To avoid this, you and your partner will probably want to make new wills. (Different rules apply if you and your partner are registered domestic partners in California, Maine, or New Jersey, reciprocal beneficiaries in Hawaii, or civil union partners in Vermont or Connecticut .)
- You get divorced . In most states, a final judgment of divorce (or an annulment) revokes any gift made by your will to your former spouse. But in some states, it doesn’t. So no matter where you live, you should make a new will after a divorce.
- You bring a new baby into the family . You’ll want to make a new will to name a personal guardian for the little one. This is the person you want to raise your child in the unlikely event that both you and the other parent become available.
- You have new step children . Unless you legally adopt stepchildren, they have no right to inherit from you in most situations. If you want to leave them a share of your property, you should adjust your will.
- You acquire or dispose of substantial assets, such as a home . If you leave all of your property to one or more people or organizations, there is no need to change your will as what you own changes. But if you’ve made specific gifts of property that you no longer own, you’ll want to avoid leaving the intended beneficiaries out in the cold. (If you no longer own the property, the beneficiaries are probably out of luck; they won’t get anything in lieu of it.) Likewise, if you obtain new property and you want to leave it to someone specific, you’ll need to change your will to make your wishes clear.
- You’re married and move from a community property state to a common law property state, or vice versa . Community property and common law property states view the ownership of property by married couples differently. This means that what both you and your spouse own may change if you move from one type of state to the other.
- You change your mind about who you want to inherit a significant portion of your property . If you decide to leave a share of your property to someone else, you’ll need to create a new will.
Changing a Will
Changing Other Estate Documents
Don’t forget that much of your property will probably pass outside the terms of your will. For example, individual retirement accounts, joint or payable-on-death bank accounts, stocks registered with a transfer-on-death form, and life insurance proceeds go directly to the beneficiaries you’ve named. Your will has no effect on them. If you’ve changed your mind about who you want to inherit these kinds of property, you’ll need to change the documents on which you named the beneficiary.
Should I put my health care wishes in my will?
If you have a living trust and want to change its terms, you can add an amendment to the original document. You may then need to transfer property in or out of the trustee’s name. Unlike a will, you do not usually revoke a trust and start over if you want to make a change.Remember to review your entire estate plan periodically to see if there are any changes you want to make. Once a year would not be too often.