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Situations that may prompt a will change

California residents may have estate plans in place, but it is important to consider changing a will if certain life events occur. It may be easy to overlook such a need due to the activity surrounding some of those events. However, failing to change the conditions in a will may result in unanticipated consequences after one's death.

Family changes are among the most significant issues to consider in evaluating and potentially changing wills. For example, marriage doesn't necessarily result in one's spouse becoming the primary heir of an estate. In many states, a spouse is awarded at most one-half of an estate with the remainder going to children, parents, or siblings. A will is necessary if all of one's estate is intended to be left to a spouse. A remarriage or divorce may complicate family-related plans for an estate, making it important to review and make appropriate changes. If a testator's spouse dies, it is important to update the will and other estate planning documents appropriately. An evaluation should also be made if a new child is born. This allows for designations to be made related to a child's care if both parents should expire.

As an individual ages, an estate may grow to the point that more careful estate planning is needed to limit tax implications for surviving heirs. Retirement can also change one's needs in an estate plan as considerations for elder care become a more serious concern. A move to a new state is also an ideal time for reviewing a will or estate plan to ensure that state tax implications are considered.

An individual whose family connections have become complicated due to multiple marriages and children may want to work with a lawyer to develop a will based on priorities related to passing on assets. In some cases, an individual may prefer to leave the majority of an estate to a spouse. In other cases, trusts might be used to support a spouse while leaving an inheritance to other heirs.

Source: Kiplinger , "Good Reasons to Change Your Will", December 19, 2014

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