Nobody wants to dwell upon the subject of mortality. This is why many people constantly put off that visit to their estate planning lawyer in Toronto, and why, once they have a will, more still never go back to update it. And while not updating your will might avoid an uncomfortable conversation with your estate planning lawyer, it can also cause a great amount of hardship among your beneficiaries when you pass—often causing rifts and conflicts that can tear a once-loving family apart, and a significant portion of your estate going where you don’t want it to go.
Matters become even more complicated when it comes to ‘gray areas’ such as common-law relationships, which are treated as marriage for income tax purposes, but are not quite so cut-and-dry when it comes to estate planning.
And, regardless of whether the case of your estate is cut-and-dry or complicated, an estate without a proper will is often largely lost in estate taxes.
When Should You Re-Visit Your Will
The first and most important step is to have a valid, comprehensive will in the first place. If you don’t have a will that was drafted by a lawyer, you’re most likely not completely covered. (Will kits are usually quite generalized, and often leave many aspects of your estate open for dispute.) And if you have assets, you should have an updated will.
Beyond that, it’s important to update your will at every major life event that affects either yourself, your estate, or your beneficiaries, such as:
- A change in marital status (through marriage, divorce, or death)
- When a child is born
- When a child reaches the age of majority (ie. is no longer a dependent)
- When you retire
- When you make a major investment decision
- When a risk to the health or mental competence of yourself or your partner is discovered (such as early symptoms of dementia or ALS)
- If your financial status significantly changes (for better or worse)
- The death of someone affected by the will (a beneficiary or executor)
- If you no longer wish someone in your will to receive a share of your estate
The rule of thumb is that you should visit your Toronto estate planning lawyer at least once every 5 years to make sure that your will still accurately reflects your wishes and your current financial and familial situations.
To schedule an appointment with our estate planning lawyers, give us a call or book an appointment. If you have any questions about wills and estates, or any other type of law, please feel free to submit a question through our Ask An Estate Planning Lawyer in Toronto.