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Reviewing Your Last Will & Testament

Posted By Guest Contributor On 01/26/2011 @ 12:11 pm In Personal Finance | 15 Comments

This is a guest post from Evan of My Journey to Millions.

Like life insurance, someone’s Last Will and Testament is often forgotten about for years. The documents are relegated to the back of the filing cabinet only to see the light of day after something horrible has happened. If I had to give a guess as to why, it probably has to do with the fact that those two items do not effect your day to day life such as over paying for your car insurance or having high interest credit card debt.

Part of every person’s financial review should be a re-reading of their Last Will and Testament. While I may read 4 to 8 Wills a week I can understand why reading one’s own will is not an enjoyable experience. First of all they are usually written in a foreign language known often referred to as legalese, but more importantly it forces you to think about your death and possibly your family’s death. While I can’t make the experience a better one, I can at least provide you with questions to think about when you are reviewing your Last Will and Testament.

This post is part of the 2011 Spring Cleaning Week [3]!

Reasons to Review Your Last Will and Testament

While the main stream media floods you with confusing information regarding the tax changes in 2011 [4] most of the estate provisions are inapplicable to 99% of the Country! Notwithstanding that only about 2% of the Country did pay Estate Taxes and now only about 1% will there are some older Wills which might force surviving spouses to take advantage of certain tax provisions that are no longer applicable. So while you most likely don’t have to worry about it you should be on the look out for terms like “Credit Shelter Trust” when you aren’t worth $5,000,000+! With that out of the way lets get to the real issues which will effect 100% of all Readers.

Let’s attack the main reason why anyone creates a Will in the first place – To make sure the Will still follows your testamentary intent [5] as it relates to the ultimate distribution of your assets.

  • Maybe you left assets to your children outright (rather than in Trust) but they are in the middle of a terrible marriage and might get divorced eventually hence possibly subjecting your future inheritance to possibly being split?
  • Maybe you just don’t like your spouse and want his share to be placed in a marital trust to restrict access and control?
  • Are there any charities you have grown fond of since your last drafting?

The next thing to think about and look for is if your family dynamics have changed.

  • Were you married when the Will was written? If so, I bet it should be updated (some States [6] actually deem the divorced spouse to have predeceased but it is still a good idea to have a new one drafted).
  • Are any of your beneficiaries on or may need government benefits? Then their eventual share may need to be put in a special needs trust.
  • Are there grandchildren you want to direct assets to directly?

Another item to think about is whether you have the same people in your life. When you create your last Will and Testament you put certain people in charge of certain aspects of your life.

  • When you created your Will you named a person you want handling your financial affairs after you die but before they are distributed (The Executor). Is the named person still who you want in charge?
  • You also named a Guardian to care for your person and property. Do you want the same guardian to care for your children?
  • Lastly you may have named a Trustee to control Trusts created within the Will. Is that person still in your life? and Responsible?

While reviewing your Last Will and Testament may not be pleasant, it has to be done. Remember, you are checking to see if your testamentary intent is still met, whether the changes in your family dynamics still work with your Will and whether those people you put in charge are still those people you want running your estate after you pass.

This is a guest post from Evan of My Journey to Millions [7]. Evan is a fellow personal finance blogger, who is also an Attorney and works as a Director with a New York Financial and Estate Planning Firm. If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing to his RSS feed [8] or following him on Twitter [9].

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[1] Tweet: http://twitter.com/share

[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/reviewing-testament.html

[3] 2011 Spring Cleaning Week: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/spring-cleaning-week.html

[4] tax changes in 2011: http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/articles/summary-of-tax-changes-for-2011/

[5] testamentary intent: http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/articles/understanding-and-determining-your-testamentary-intent/

[6] some States: http://www.nycourts.gov/ip/judiciaryslegislative/SurrogatesCourtAd_08.pdf

[7] My Journey to Millions: http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/

[8] RSS feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/myjourneytomillions/feed

[9] Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mjtm

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