The majority of adults have not written a Will. But for those that have, the Will is probably so outdated that it may as well not exist. The majority of Wills that exist need to be revised. There are several reasons for updating a Will, primarily when life circumstances have changed. Essentially, if your situation has changed in any way, it is time to update your Will.
When is it time to make a change?
When it comes time to consider modifying your Will, you need to look at the changes in your own life circumstances, as well as any changes others mentioned in your Will may have experienced. Here are a few issues to consider.
- The purchase of new property
- Marriage, remarriage, or marriage of your children
- Birth of a new child, birth of grandchildren
- Heirs have become extremely irresponsible
- Your executor has died or is no longer able to serve
- Guardians for minor children have died or are no longer able to serve
How often should I review my Will?
For some, reviewing and updating their Will every few months is normal. Often, that is because of a change relationships and feelings, based on daily interactions with others. However, updating your Will every time someone falls out of favor with you may not be the best option. A good rule of thumb would be to update your Will after a change in circumstance rather than a change in heart.
If the provisions of your Will no longer apply, either because all of your heirs are not included or because your heirs, beneficiaries, trustees or executors have changed, then your property cannot be distributed as you indicated. In reality, having an outdated Will can be worse than no Will at all. You should review the terms of your Will whenever there is a significant event for anybody mentioned in the document and make any required changes. At the very least, you should read through your Will once a year to confirm that it still reflects your wishes and that your instructions can still be carried out.
What happens if my Will is not updated?
Without a valid or executable Will, your assets will still go to your family, through your state’s laws of “intestate succession.” The only difference is that with a Will, you can determine exactly which relatives will receive which assets. Whereas, without a Will, your closest relatives will receive equal shares depending on a pre-established priority system. With that system, how your property is distributed depends on which of your relatives are still alive when you die.
Intestate Succession in California.
The simplest answer to the question, “what Will happen to my property if I die without a Will,” is that your property will go to your closest living relative(s). Not all assets pass to your heirs through intestate succession, however. Generally, only assets that you own alone in your own name will pass through. Property, for which you are not the sole owner will pass to the surviving co-owner or beneficiary you named. This is true whether or not you have a Will.
If only your spouse survives you, he or she will inherit everything. If you have children when you die, but no spouse, parents or siblings, then your children will inherit your estate. Next in line would be your parents and then your siblings. Your spouse is not entitled to a share of your property if you are legally separated, but not yet divorced.
If you have questions regarding Wills, or any other estate planning needs, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (301) 337-7696.