How do you know if you need to change a will? If you have an existing will in place, we recommend review it periodically to make sure it’s up to date. Here are a few common situations that could warrant you to review and update your will:
If there have been any noteworthy changes in your family circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, souring of relationships, a death in the family, or the birth of a child or grandchild, updating your will may be necessary to reflect these changes. Separation from a spouse, for instance, usually means that spouse has died before you for the purposes of interpreting a will (according to section 56(2) of the wills law in BC). Reviewing your will while keeping your family circumstances in mind will ensure your assets are distributed with respect to your current wishes.
Your will deals with your assets after death. If there have been any major changes in your financial situation, such as acquiring new assets or investments, starting a business, or experiencing a substantial increase or decrease in your wealth, it may be necessary to change a will. For instance, if you have certain assets such as a business or RESPs for children, your executor needs to be given certain powers in your will to be able to handle these. With a privately-owned business, there may be a potential to write dual-wills, which would save you some taxes. A will that does not reflect your present-day financial status may cause confusion and potential disputes amongst family members when it comes to distribution of these assets.
Change in executor or guardianship preferences
The most important roles in a will are executor and guardian (if you have minor children). If you have identified an individual that you think is more suitable for the role of executor or guardian for your children than the person appointed in your existing will, it is crucial to update your will to reflect these changes. Similarly, if your chosen executor or guardian is no longer able to or willing to fulfill their role, you should consider updating your will immediately to ensure someone you trust will carry out your wishes in their place.
Moving? You may need to change a will
Different provinces, states and countries each have their own laws and regulations for governing wills. If you are considering moving to a new province or out of the country, updating your will should be one of the first things you contemplate. To ensure your will is legally valid and enforceable in your new residence, you should speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer who can provide proper guidance on how to structure your will in accordance with the jurisdiction you are in.
Changes in estate planning laws or tax laws
Tax regulations and estate planning laws can undergo regular changes in BC. It is important to have your will reviewed by a professional periodically to make sure there have been no updates that could negatively affect your estate plan.
Next steps to change a will
What can you do to change a will? There are two options:
- Codicil: If you need to change one or two small things in your will, a codicil may be a good option. A codicil is a separate document that amends your current will. You can modify, delete or add something to a will with a codicil. We only suggest using codicils to make very small changes to an existing will though. We don’t recommend making substantial changes by codicil because the will says one thing and the codicil changes it. Changing ten things could leads to confusion and possible mistakes in interpreting the will.
- New Will: If you want to amend a will with major revisions, we recommend drafting a new will. This is because of two reasons: A. Making a new will is often more cost effective than trying to “bandaid” over your existing will with an extensive codicil; and B. it is simpler to read for everybody.