Considerations for Updating Your Will Over Time
Life is ever-changing, and with it, the circumstances surrounding our Estate Planning may evolve. Here are key scenarios to consider when updating your Will:
Executor and Trustee Changes:
If a named Executor or Trustee passes away or is unable to act, it doesn’t invalidate the Will. However, it’s a moment to reassess whether the alternate-named individual is still appropriate. We also find many people feel naming one Executor is enough. However, this puts your plans into the hands of the government (if there are no family members) or family members you may not feel have the skills to handle your Estate.
The death of a named Beneficiary doesn’t revoke a Will, but the distribution may vary. Consider updating your Will if significant, or if the nature of the gift warrants reconsideration. You may also like to change the Beneficiary based upon changes in their life circumstances.
Specific Property Gift:
If the Will includes a gift of specific property that the testator no longer owns, consider updating your Will. A separate letter of wishes for personal effects can simplify updates. Codicils can also cover gifts and are quick and easy to do.
Changes in the name of an Executor, Trustee, or beneficiary don’t invalidate their roles or gifts but can complicate Estate Administration. Updating your Will is a thoughtful gesture. So, name changes matter and will sometimes lengthen the Probate process which is not great especially if you have real estate to sell.
Birth of a Child:
The birth of a child typically warrants a new Will, including provisions for the child, trusts, and a guardianship provision. Similar considerations may apply to the birth of a grandchild. Wills are often written to be general to accommodate additional children or grandchildren, however, the more specific you are the better the outcome for family members.
Children Growing Older:
As children age, revisit the Will to ensure trust terms are still appropriate. Remove the guardianship provision if all children have reached the age of majority. You may also like to adjust the age at which the children receive the funds, now that they are adults, and you are clear on their needs concerning university and life planning needs.
Marital Status Changes:
Marriage, separation, divorce, or entering/exiting a common-law relationship should prompt a Will review. Common-law partners need specific provisions to ensure property rights. We have a case right now which is costing the partner significant sums of money to unravel as the Will did not protect him, even if he was a common-law partner.
Significant Asset Changes:
Changes in asset value may prompt adjustments in the Will, such as additional bequests or changes to trust terms. Acquiring assets abroad may require additional planning.
Beneficiary Designation Updates:
Changes to underlying assets should prompt updates to beneficiary designations in the Will, especially for registered plans or life insurance. This is important as these designations are made directly with the bank or insurance company and are not dictated by what your Will states.
Change in Jurisdiction or Citizenship:
Moving jurisdictions or changing citizenship may affect the effectiveness of Canadian planning. Seek advice in all relevant jurisdictions and update testamentary documents accordingly. It seems strange you may still be a Canadian citizen however, living out of the jurisdiction may require you to obtain a bond which can be sizeable until the Estate is settled.
Remember, even without specific events, it’s wise to revisit your Will every few years to ensure it also aligns with the latest legal standards as well as the changes in your life.
What happens if you have a Will in Ontario and property in Quebec?
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This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions.