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As the weather dips below freezing, we should take a cold, hard look at ways to protect our loved ones this year. If you’ve already had a will prepared, you’re a step ahead of the rest. Your work isn’t done there. Your will, like your life, is ever-evolving.
As the years progress, so do our wishes, state laws, finances, and estate size, and even our relationships with others. If your will was written more than a couple of years ago, you should review your will to:
Let’s look in-depth at a few reasons to update your will today.
Many factors can influence our assets and cause a substantial increase or decrease in their overall value. This can mean a merger, a new product, expansion, or simply a change in revenues in terms of a business. Personal assets can include any newly found wealth from an inheritance or raise at work. It can also have newly acquired valuable belongings (either sentimentally or monetarily valuable). With a change in asset value also comes tax consequences. Reviewing your will is essential to keep taxes low when it comes to an inheritance.
During the holidays, we have time to meet with friends and family that we may not have seen for some time. This can be an excellent opportunity to discuss plans and determine if you notice any reason to update your will. You may also learn about relationship changes or experience them yourself. Perhaps you’ve discovered that your favorite nephew has been making poor life choices, so you may need to restructure or revise his inheritance.
If you have a large family, children and grandchildren are being born every year, and you may need to add them to your will. Loved ones and beneficiaries pass away, marriages dissolve, and relational changes occur every year. Revising your will to reflect these changes is prudent—especially if you wish to disinherit someone who would otherwise receive your estate (an ex-spouse, for instance).
Long-distance driving through snowstorms, flights across the country, and stressful planning can all result in dangerous scenarios for you or your loved ones. Having a valid will prepared can help both you and your loved ones feel at ease during the holidays. Plus, you might finally have time off during the holiday to meet with your attorney.
If you’ve moved to a different state than the one where you drafted your will, you may need to update it to maintain its validity. Other states handle probate, estate, property, and inheritance taxes differently, so updating your will can prevent tax issues for your loved ones.
Unless you’re continually reading law journals or have a close relationship with your attorney, you may never even realize that tax laws have changed since you last updated your will. State and federal taxes change frequently, and your beneficiaries may be caught unawares. This is especially true for those who have accrued considerable wealth and may need additional legal strategies to maximize tax savings.
It’s the season for giving, and the same can be said for your estate. Some of the legal strategies mentioned above involve giving to charities to decrease the value of your estate. This can be beneficial when you’re trying to reduce your estate taxes, and it benefits both parties as you’re contributing to a good cause with your donation.
An executor ensures that your final bills are paid, banks and businesses are notified, and all estate affairs are in order as our needs and relationships change, so might the complexity of our estate. While you trust your brother, he isn’t the best with finances, and your wealth has grown significantly over the last few years. As a result, you might opt to replace him with a professional.
As the year winds to a close, we have enough on our plates. Tomorrow is never promised, so taking the time to update your will before something unexpected occurs is imperative. Making plans to meet with an attorney well versed in estate planning may be the best decision you make this year.
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