At Crain & Wooley, we instruct our clients to dust off their estate plan and review it once a year to make sure it correctly reflects their wishes. There are many life changes and scenarios where you will need to revoke your will and get a new plan in place. Here are just a few common ones:
- Divorce – Although the Texas Estates Code states that any provisions for a spouse that you’d divorced before your death are voided, there are a lot of other considerations. Even if the end result is the same, there will be extra time and expense in getting the judge to “fix” the will’s provisions about your ex-spouse. Additionally, a professional estate planning attorney can ensure that your new wishes are carried out in both estate planning documents and in beneficiary designations of your assets.
- Wishes change – A best case scenario is that your daughter, Janet, wins the lottery and you want to gracefully disinherit her and give your estate to the local animal shelter instead. (Good for Janet and the puppies!) There are a million other scenarios where your wishes change. Maybe your children were minors when you wrote your will, but they’re all grown up and now they’re ready to handle being your executor instead of your sister. Maybe you bought a lake house and want to make sure it stays in the family. Maybe you want to leave a fund specifically for your grandkids’ education. Whatever your wishes are, you have to make sure it’s clearly stated in writing. The courts can’t take “but what he meant to say was . . .” into consideration.
- Executor dies or is unqualified – Your will should have someone named who you want to be in charge after you die. It also should have at least one backup in case that person predeceases you or is unqualified to serve. If any or all of the executors named in your will are no longer appropriate to serve for any reason, it will make probate a lot easier, faster, and cheaper if you update your will.
- Children born or adopted – There are very complicated laws that handle what happens when there are no provisions in your will for one of your children, but your will was written before that child was born. Again, it’s best to update your will for the same reasons stated above regarding not relying on the court to adjust your will after your divorce: there is extra time and expense when making adjustments in the court. Depending on your specific family situation, a professional estate planning attorney can make sure that provisions for your children—or potential future children—are written with multiple scenarios in mind.
The absolute best first step in revoking your existing will is to work with a professional estate planning attorney to create a replacement plan. When your “Last Will and Testament” is executed, it literally means that it’s the last one you’ve written (even if you’ve previously created 20 different wills). A well written will should also have language in it reiterating that any previously written wills are revoked. Once we’ve helped you properly execute your new will or, we’ll also advise you to physically destroy your old documents as a triple-check on ensuring there is no confusion as to which will is correct. “Physically destroy” means throwing your old documents in a fire, putting them in a shredder, chaining them to a cinder block and throwing it in the lake, or whatever other way ensures that no one can present it in court.
Has life changed? Do you need to talk with someone about revoking or adjusting a current will? Contact us for a time to talk with one of our attorneys today.