The importance of having an updated will

The reason for preparing a will is to set out your wishes for what you would like done with your assets, holdings and belongings if something were to happen to you and after your demise.

Without a will, your property could be distributed according to the law of the jurisdiction that you reside in.   That could mean that your property may go to people you are estranged from or you don’t intend it to go to.   Worse still, there may be people that make claims that you have promised them some assets and, without a will, there is no proof to the contrary.

Having an updated will make life easier for your family members and can prevent disagreements regarding settling your estate.  It ensures that your property is distributed to the people that you intend and designate.

If you have had changes in your marital status including children from the marriage or changes in your financial situation, and these changes are not reflected in your will, it may mean that the assets may go to people that you did not intend to receive them.

Examples of unintended consequences:

Example A:    a couple has been separated and living apart for many years and they now both have different partners. Neither one of the couple has sought a divorce.  The husband dies suddenly from injuries resulting from an accident.  He had not updated his will.  His estranged wife may still lay claim and have access to her ex-husband’s assets.  This is particularly unfortunate and stressful, especially  if the husband had wanted to look after his current partner instead.

Example B:   a man dies of a sudden heart attack.  He had remarried 10 years ago but had never updated his will, which still shows that all his assets are to go to his 3 grown daughters.  The current wife has no choice but to challenge the will as the daughters do not have any interest in sharing the assets with her.  This is definitely not what the husband would have intended for his current wife.

Having an updated will reduces the probability of someone contesting your will which will go into probate and cause delays as well as other costs for settling your estate.  These unnecessary delays, costs and emotional stress could be reduced or eliminated by having an up to date will.

We recommend that you meet with your lawyer or notary public to review and update your will when there are life changes that would need to be reflected and included so that you can ensure your wishes and intentions are properly reflected.

Author: Anna Nyarady