Garton & Harris

Life events that mean it's time to take another look at wills

Most people understand the need to prepare legal documents to share end-of-life decisions, and to prepare for the distribution of their wealth after that. But, preparing a will is only the first step. British Columbia individuals and families should also take a look at wills and other plans to reaffirm details and make critical changes at key points in life.

Moments where a family structure changes are almost always good times to take a look at estate plans. For example, when a child is born, parents should designate guardianship. Upon marriage or divorce, confirming or creating stipulations around transfer of wealth to a spouse is important. Ideally, planners will do this in advance, even when just considering a divorce or marriage, to ensure every option remains available and paperwork can be completed.

The behaviour of beneficiaries can also indicate a need to review estate plans. For example, if a beneficiary is in the midst of a difficult divorce, at risk for bankruptcy or has a substance abuse problem, it may change the way in which it makes sense to pass wealth to them. Trusts can be used to protect inheritances in these situations. By contrast, a family member growing older and becoming more responsible may indicate it's worthwhile to rethink executorship or powers of attorney.

In general, significant changes in one's family or property should trigger the thought to review estate plans. To keep better track of these touchpoints, many individuals and families schedule regular reviews of their wills. A British Columbia lawyer can help guide this process and answer specific questions about when to revisit a plan.

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