McClellan Legal LLC Estate Planning & Tax Assessment Blog

Thursday, January 4, 2018

When Should You Update Your Will

Clients often ask me when they should update their Will?  My answer is that a Will should be updated when circumstances change, which could be after one week or five years.  I like to compare a Will to a new house.  On the day that you purchase your new home it appears perfect (if well-constructed).  Likewise, on the day that you sign your Will, it should be optimal (if you had comprehensive planning).  However, in the same way a house deteriorates over time, your Will is likely to become less effective as your life changes.

This article will address the most common triggers for taking the initiative to update your Will (changes in family, wealth, health, and taxes).   I recently read a report that the average age of a Will when it is administered is about 17 years.  In other words, the average Will has not be updated in nearly two decades.  A lot can happen to you and your family in 17 years.    

Changes in Family Members

The most common trigger for updating a Will is a change in family.  Your family could add new members by birth (e.g., children or grandchildren) or lose family members by death.   It is important that your Will accurately reflects the actual people that survive you.  You certainly don’t want to forget the new baby and you don’t want to make things more complicated by leaving an inheritance to someone that has already passed. 

In addition to making sure that you have an updated group of beneficiaries, changes in family circumstances is also likely to impact your previous selections for fiduciaries (e.g., executor, guardian for minors, power of attorney, etc.) that may become unable unwilling or unable to effectively serve.   Additionally, your relationship with a beneficiary or a fiduciary may sour over time and that issue would also need to be addressed.  Further, at the time of your initial Will, your children may not have been mature enough to serve as back-up fiduciaries.  As they mature, many people replace their initial selections with fiduciaries that will likely outlive them.


When a client’s wealth changes drastically, the client would benefit from reevaluating the existing Will to reconsider the size or percentage of inheritances.  A change in wealth may also lead to tax or charitable issues that were not previously considered based on the previous wealth circumstances. 


As a client’s health changes for the better or worse, it is critical that we review the existing Will to ensure that the Will remains optimal. 

Taxes and Legal Strategies

Even if there are no changes in a client circumstances (e.g., family, wealth, and health), it is important for a Will to be reviewed for changes in tax and legal strategies.  Periodic meetings with your attorney will increase the likelihood that your estate planning documents remain optimal. 

If your Will is over five years old, we recommend a review because it is highly probable that one or more circumstances in your life relevant to your Will have changed.  Please contact us if you would like to review your existing estate plan.   

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McClellan Legal LLC is located in Kennett Square and serves clients throughout the areas of Avondale, Chadds Ford, Coatesville, Downingtown, Landenberg, Oxford, Phoenixville, Pottstown, West Chester, & West Grove.

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