There are few documents that hold the potential to create unnecessary family and community conflicts like an out-of-date will. While it is certainly true that having a will at all, even an out-of-date one, is better than no will at all, an out-of-date will often contains conflicting information. An out-of-date will may also fail to comply with changes in estate law, or completely neglect to address changes in the life of the creator and the beneficiaries that affect the directives within the will.
Many parents know that they need to update their will, but find reasons to put it off. Of course, this is not a very wise choice, no matter the age. If you have a parent with a will that he or she should update in order to avoid family conflicts, you should encourage them to make it a priority.
If you need help understanding the scope of the issues involved in a will, or simply need some guidance convincing your parent to update a will, you can consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. Professional counsel helps ensure that you understand the matters at hand while helping you protect your rights and the rights of the ones you love.
What events make an update to a will necessary?
Depending on many variables in your parents' financial and personal lives, any number of events may affect their will. Even if your parent does not experience any significant changes for number of years, estate laws change regularly. Your parent should review the will with an attorney at least every five years, if not more often.
If your parent's will remains unchanged following a change in estate law, that law may invalidate a portion of the will and create unnecessary conflict.
Most commonly, wills require updating after a significant event occurs in the life of the will creator. These significant events may include:
- significant financial gains or losses
- birth, adoption or addition of any beneficiaries
- marriage, remarriage, or divorce for the creator or beneficiaries
- changes in the creator's wishes
- death of a beneficiary
What if my parent does not update the will before passing away?
If your parent never updates the will, then there is a slim chance that everything may work out just fine, but it is not likely. When a will goes un-updated, it often generates contradictions about elements of the estate or conflicts between beneficiaries named in the will and those not named in the will.
The less decisive and clear the directions in the will, the more opportunity there is for some beneficiary to challenge the will and drag the whole process through the legal system. This is rarely good for anyone, no matter who prevails. Be sure to express to the parents you love how important it is to you that they update their will as soon as possible.