Urgent: Your Will May Need Updates

When the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin died last year, it was believed that she hadn’t prepared any kind of estate plan, including a last will and testament.

But, a few months ago, three handwritten wills were found in her home near Detroit. Two were in a locked closet and one was stuffed beneath the cushions of a couch!

If you’re wondering whether the handwritten wills are valid, join the crowd.

In Franklin’s case, with her $80 million estate, it’s likely good news that some kind of last will and testament was found to help divide her assets.

But, there’s no guarantee that the informal, handwritten wills are going to hold up in court. So the saga continues…

Aretha’s problematic situation is why it’s so important to have an estate plan with a legally valid last will and testament.

I won’t bore you with estate planning details (today), but I do want to talk about when you should consider updating your will.

This is all personal preference, of course, but I would suggest reviewing your will if you’ve done any of the following recently.

Moved to a Different State

If you’ve moved to a different state since your will was written, it’s a good idea to review it. Whatever state you die in, will be the state’s laws that are applied to your will.

And some rules in your new state could be different from your old one. For example, some states vary in the number of witness signatures needed on a will to transfer property once you die.

If you move from a state that requires only one witness to two, this can be problematic for your executor. Other rules that differ between states are the types of wills deemed valid.

Some states allow self-written wills but have rules around how they can be written. In one state, you might have to write out your entire will by hand. Whereas, in another state you can type your will and just sign at the bottom.

Purchased a New Property

Another mistake a lot of people make is they assume that because their will states that they are gifting their home to their children when they pass that it’s a done deal.

Your will needs to specify exactly what home and at what address you’re gifting. So if you move or decide to buy a second property, make sure your will specifies who receives which property and at what address.

Purged Old Possessions

If you’ve moved or downsized recently, you likely purged some of your old possessions. Sometimes you end up giving away or selling something you had planned on passing down.

If your will lists items you no longer own, those possessions will be skipped over and the recipient of those items with get nothing. So, it’s best to review your will and redistribute whatever possessions you currently still own.

Gifted a Willed Item

Sometimes you will gift some of your possessions early due to downsizing or out of necessity. For instance, you might gift an antique desk to one child, but in your will, it says that same desk goes to another child.

Things can become awkward between families if you don’t catch these little hiccups. Whenever you give something away that’s significant, review your will to make sure you haven’t disrupted the balance.

Had a Significant Change in Your Net Worth

You might have exact amounts of money earmarked for each one of your children. This will likely depend on how much your estate is worth, the value of stock you own, etc.

But the size of your estate and the worth of your stock could have grown or shrunk dramatically since you last wrote your will.

This can create challenges for your executor. Especially if one asset has grown significantly while another has shrunk. If that’s the case, it’s best to update your will to reflect your current net worth.

Begun Working with a New Charity

Maybe you’ve recently started volunteering at a nonprofit or you joined a board for a charity that means a lot to you. You might wish to donate some of your wealth to this group.

Now is a good time to update your will to reflect those changes. And the same can be said for charities or groups you no longer feel the same way about. You might need to remove some groups from your will to better reflect how you currently feel.

Had a Death in the Family

If your spouse dies before you, you won’t need to update your will because wills typically list alternate recipients in case this happens.

But, if your will lists a child who has recently passed as a beneficiary, then you’ll need to include instructions on how you would like that child’s items redistributed.

Your Primary Caregiver Changed

If one of your sons or daughters becomes your primary caregiver since you last wrote your will, it might be time to update your document to reflect your gratitude.

Oftentimes, becoming a primary caregiver involves a huge time and financial commitment. The best way to go about making this change so as not to upset the other beneficiaries listed in your will is to explain your intentions.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Nilus Mattive

Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

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