Reasons To Update Your Will
After you complete your Will, you might plan to come back and review it each year or every few years. And you definitely should. But far too often, after someone finishes their Will they walk away and forget to come back and revisit it.
There are many reasons to update your Will, and it should reflect your wishes at each stage of your life, not just the day you signed it. If your Will doesn’t reflect your current wishes it could leave your loved ones in some awkward situations—like a family member getting left out of the Will.
So it’s best to make sure you update your Will after key events in your life to avoid such problems.
Top 9 Reasons to Update your Will
1. Divorce or Separation
You may need to update your Will if your marital status changes. After a divorce, your wishes will likely change with regards to your former spouse and it’s imperative your Will reflects those changes.
Depending on the province where you live, there may be some automatic effects that a divorce can have on your Will (like removing your ex-spouse as your executor, among other things). But to be sure that all of your wishes are reflected, it’s important to change the document yourself.
If you are separated from your spouse (whether or not you plan to file for divorce), remember that you are probably still legally married in the eyes of the law. And if the default rules in your province treat separated spouses the same as married spouses, the planned distribution of your estate might not be what you would want. Instead of waiting until “everything is settled”, it’s best to update your documents so they take into account your current situation.
2. Engagement or marriage
If you’ve gotten engaged or married, congratulations! There is going to be a list of things that you and your spouse are going to need to do during this exciting time. One of the things on that list should be making or updating your Will.
Not every province deals with marriage in the same way when it comes to Wills.
Provincial intestacy laws
In Manitoba, PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, getting married automatically revokes an existing Will, unless the Will clearly states that it was made in contemplation of the upcoming marriage. So, it’s important for anyone in these provinces to create a new Will after marriage.
In BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario (as of January 2022), marriage does not revoke a Will. So, as long as someone’s Will continues to reflect their wishes, they don’t need to update it after marriage.
If you recently got engaged, you could consider updating your Will to include your spouse if they aren’t named in your existing Will. This is called ‘in contemplation of marriage’. Of course, you should only do this if you want them to inherit part of your estate, or take on an important role, like executor.
3. Changes in relationships
Besides changes in your marital status, other personal relationships such as those with friends, family members, or other loved ones can also change as time goes on. Perhaps you are no longer close to a friend you previously wanted to leave your assets to, or maybe you’ve gained a variety of new and valuable relationships with people in your life and want to include them in your Will. You’ll want to make a new Will to reflect these new changes in your relationships.
This could also be the case with important appointments in your Will, such as your executor of the guardian of your minor children or pets. If the person you previously chose no longer feels like the right choice, you should update your Will and make that change.
4. Birth or adoption of children
Family is important, and making sure your children are provided for is one of the most important reasons to make adjustments to your Will. If you’ve just had your first child or you have a new child since your Will was last written, you’ll want to make sure they’re included in your Will in the way you want.
You will also want to think about guardianship. If this is your first child, you will need to name a guardian in your Will. If this is not your first child and you already have a guardianship provision in your Will, now is the time to ask yourself if the person you previously named to be the guardian is still the right choice.
Another thing to consider is the age at which you want your child/children to receive their inheritance. Are you ok with the age of majority in your province (likely 18 or 19)? Or would you rather delay that and have their inheritance held in a trust until they become a more responsible age?
5. Changes in your assets
In your Will, you’re able to divide your estate among your beneficiaries like slices of pie. You also have the opportunity to leave things called ‘specific gifts’ which are items or specific amounts of money gifted to certain individuals. Big changes in the value of your estate could be cause for adjustment to your Will.
Perhaps you recently received a large inheritance from a family member who passed away and now you want to gift some of that to someone special to you. Or, your assets may have decreased in value and you need to remove some specific gifts that were in your Will. Finally, maybe you had planned on leaving a specific item (like a watch or collectible) to a friend, but you ended up selling that item. It’s a good idea to update your Will to make these kinds of changes.
As a general rule, when your estate’s value dramatically increases or decreases, you should look over and amend your estate planning documents. Additionally, when you buy or sell property or other high-value assets, you should take a look if that changes anything for estate planning purposes.
6. Change in location
You might need to revise your Will in the event you or someone named in your Will moves.
What if I move?
Each province has somewhat different laws and rules with respect to estates. If you’ve moved to another province or territory you should review your existing Will, and make adjustments if necessary. With different jurisdictions across Canada, you may run into different laws regarding estate planning, making your old Will incorrect, insufficient, or invalid.
If you have moved to another province or country, it is important to check that your Will still reflects your wishes and is still valid as you may need to make udpates.
What if my executor moves?
If your executor moves to another province or country, it could potentially complicate the estate administration process. The court might require that extra steps be taken or extra costs be incurred. You don’t necessarily have to change your executor, but it is worth considering whether there is someone else who is local that could take on the job.
7. A person in your Will passes away
Over the course of our lives, people will pass on, and this may require you to change your Will. The change will depend on the role they were assuming in your Will.
If a beneficiary passes away
If a beneficiary passes away or becomes terminally ill (and you haven’t named an alternate beneficiary), you may want to reassess the distribution of assets in your Will. Now that one of your beneficiaries can no longer receive the assets you intended on giving them, you may want to adjust your Will to leave money and assets to someone else instead.
If your executor passes away
If your executor passes away (and you haven’t named an alternate executor), you should select a new executor as soon as possible. Make sure to have a conversation with this person before you update your Will to ensure they are up to the job. Executorship is a big job and requires a lot of time and energy.
If a guardian passes away
If the person you named to be the guardian of your minor children or pets passes away, you should select a new guardian immediately. Similar to the executor, asking someone to be the guardian of your children or pets is a big deal and you should always discuss the appointment with this person before you make it official in your Will.
When making your original Will, it is best practice to name alternates. That goes for executors, guardians and beneficiaries. This will help to create a cushion so that your Will doesn’t need to be immediately updated if someone should pass.
8. Changes in charity relationships
Charities can play a big role in our lives. We often feel connected to charities that have had a significant impact on our lives or that help make the world a better place. Perhaps a specific charity helped you or a family member during rough times or had an impact on a cause near and dear to your heart.
For various reasons, we donate to specific charities throughout our life. You can also make a donation to a charity in your Will.
Throughout your life, the causes that mean the most to you may change. It’s essential to make a new Will to include (or remove) specific charities to reflect your wishes and desires if they do.
9. It’s been 5+ years since you last updated it
Most legal professionals recommend updating your Will every 3-5 years. Typically, people experience significant changes in their life after this amount of time. However, this is just a recommendation. You don’t need to wait 5 years to review your Will, especially if you experienced one of the events previously mentioned. . A good practice is to review your Will every year when you do your taxes.
The best approach of all is to be proactive. Update your Will anytime circumstances change that affects the outcome of your Will.
How much should it cost to update a Will?
The cost of updating a Will depends on many factors and can range from being completely free to costing thousands of dollars.
Most online services offer free (or almost free) updates. This makes it easy and affordable to make all the changes you need. If you are working with an estate attorney to update your Will, the costs can vary.
The cost of updating Wills can also depend on how complex your affairs are and how sophisticated your planning becomes. If you have a more complicated estate, it’s a good idea to consult with a tax and estate attorney to determine how best to approach updating your Will.