Nobody enjoys thinking about his or her own death. Planning and organizing for what happens once you are gone can seem equally unpalatable. For that reason, estate planning—including writing a will—often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. But, creating an estate plan provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
There is no universal “right time” to compose a will, but the following life events should provide proper motivation to write your first will or amend an existing will.
When You Get Married—or Divorced or Remarried
Changes in significant relationships frequently trigger drafting or updating a will. Getting married, divorced or remarried may change who you would name as beneficiaries in your will. Blended families and encore marriages also present unique estate planning needs. Specifying your intentions clearly in your will can avoid inheritance disputes.
When You Have Children—and When They Become Adults
Adding children to your family is a critical reason to create or update your will, as most parents wish to specify which assets go to the children. Your children would most likely receive part of your assets if you died intestate (without a will), but intestacy laws vary by state and the distribution may not match your wishes. It is also important to name a guardian to take custody of any minor children in the event you and your spouse both pass away at the same time.
Your wishes for your children may change as they grow. So, consider revisiting your will along the way.
When You Start a Business
A will is a great way to pass the family business to your heirs or other co-owners. A succession plan details who will take over the management and ownership interests of your business. If you plan to leave your business to more than one person, think about how many shares of the business will go to each person.
When You Have Assets You Want to Protect
There is no set amount of money or assets needed to write a will. If you die without a will in place, however, you have no control over who receives your possessions. The court system and intestacy laws will determine the distribution of your assets. If you already have a will in place, consider reviewing and updating it after any large asset purchase such as a home, property or car. These may affect the value of your estate and may have estate tax implications.
When It’s Been A While
Over the years, your relationships, personal preferences and other factors may affect how you want to distribute your assets in your will. Be sure to revisit your estate plan frequently.