Your Will is an essential legal document designating how your assets and property should be distributed after your death. Even though it might be uncomfortable, you shouldn’t just write your will once and lock it away without ever looking at it again.
Things change over time, both personally and financially. As a result, your estate planning documents should be regularly reevaluated. You may want to make updates to make sure your Will accurately reflects your wishes.
When to Update Your Will
Drafting a Will is an important life step because it protects your assets and ensures your wishes are honoured. However, you should review your Will every few years. Additionally, some significant life events will necessitate an update to your Will. These life changes include:
Welcoming a New Child
If you adopt or give birth to a child, your Will should be updated to include them and name a legal guardian to care for them if something happens to you. Use your Will to define your wishes for how the new addition to your family should be provided for if you cannot care for them.
Moving to Another Province
If you move to a different province, the laws in your new jurisdiction may be different. Your Will is administered in the province where you live when you die, not where it was first written.
The terms of your Will must comply with your current province of residence to prevent legal trouble.
Getting Married or Divorced
Until 2021, getting married in Ontario automatically revoked a person’s existing Will unless it was made in contemplation of marriage. This law no longer exists, but married couples often name each other in their Wills as the beneficiaries of their assets.
Conversely, Wills are not automatically revoked when couples divorce. Instead, only the provisions of the Will that apply to the former spouse are revoked.
This means an ex-spouse will not receive any gifts or be a beneficiary unless the event of divorce is addressed in the original terms. Your will should be updated as soon as possible after a divorce to avoid additional stress while untangling your assets.
Gaining or Losing Property/Possessions
You may have named items or possessions that you wanted to be passed on to beneficiaries when your Will was first written. But if you sold those items or no longer have them for some reason, your beneficiaries won’t get anything to replace them. Periodically reviewing your Will can help you stay on top of how you want your personal property to be distributed.
In addition, if you bought a new property or sold a house or other possession previously listed in your Will, you’ll need to update the Will to include the address and details of the property.
Change in Your Assets/Values
Wills often list a specific amount of money each beneficiary should receive. If your financial situation changes for better or worse, you may wish to update the dollar amount or size of the gift in the terms of your Will.
You might have also listed a particular charity you wanted to donate to upon your death but found a better one or decided to support a different cause; those changes should be reflected in the Will, too.
Losing a Beneficiary
Since married couples usually list each other as beneficiaries, it won’t have to be updated when one spouse passes away. A Will might also list alternate recipients if both spouses die simultaneously. But if the Will leaves assets to a child or other family member who has died, the document must be updated to provide new instructions regarding how those items should be handled.
Ready to Update Your Will? Donnelly Murphy Can Help
If you have recently experienced any of the life events listed above or realize it’s time to update your Will, the estate lawyers at Donnelly Murphy are ready to help. We know Ontario estate law and how to protect the interests of you and your loved ones.