When Do I Need to Update My Will?

By Kelly R. Mittelstadt

You finally did it. You sat down with your lawyer, you made your decisions, you chose an executor; your will is written. But, while it may not take effect until your death, a will is living document, and it could require updating during your lifetime.

“I recommend clients review their will every couple of years,” says Kelly Mittelstadt, wills and estates lawyer with the Truro office of Burchell MacDougall, “Any major life changes, like marriage, the birth of children, the death of a person named in your will, or a divorce, may require you to make modifications to your wishes.”

For example, if you marry and don’t update your will, your spouse may not be included in the document and would have to challenge it in probate court. In most cases, they will be successful as the law states that a will is revoked by marriage. Unfortunately for your spouse they would have to take on the expense and bother of the process.

You should also consider if your appointed executor is still capable of carrying out the terms of your will, as well as if there have been any significant changes to your assets.

“If you have a straightforward will, you may not need to update it very often,” he explains, “For example, if you leave all of your assets to your spouse, or your child or children if your spouse has passed away, that will cover most of your options.”

“The more specific your will is, however, the more often you should review and update it,” Kelly goes on, “If you choose to leave your home at 123 Main Street to your son Joe, you need to stay on top of anything that could affect that wish, like the sale of that property or the death or dissolution of your relationship with the person to whom you’ve left the property.”

You also want to be sure any organisations to whom you have made charitable bequests are still in existence, and consider adding a clause to the gift requesting that your executor find a similar option if your charity of choice is no longer operating.

“If your will is not updated, the plans for your assets may not be fulfilled,” Kelly concludes, “Those assets could potentially be distributed by the court or under provincial legislation, rather than according to your wishes.”

This article is for information only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions or would like further information, you should consult a lawyer.