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Unlike a photo album that might sit and gather dust on a shelf, your will needs care and attention throughout your life. This important document needs your help to remain accurate and relevant for use at any moment.

Outdated documents can have the same serious consequences as incomplete or inaccurate ones. Worse, courts might have to carry out what is on the page rather than your true wishes at the time of your death.

What events should trigger an update?

Your unique situation will influence your legal adviser’s opinion on how often to update your will or overall estate plan. Some people prefer to make an annual appointment, or every five years, or rely on life events to spur them to make changes.

These life events can include:

  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Marriage or divorce for yourself or a beneficiary
  • Purchase of business or property
  • Opening an investment portfolio or retirement account
  • Estrangement of a spouse or beneficiary

If you rely only on events to decide when to update your will, your schedule might be difficult to predict. Shifts in political landscapes can affect international adoptions, for example. A beneficiary with a tumultuous marriage or with unhealthy habits might keep your estate plan on it’s toes.

What changes could you need to make?

A legal advisor can help to explain why you may need to revisit your will after one of these life events. It might be as simple as a name change to help your will match other legal documents. Or perhaps you no longer want to be buried next to your ex-spouse but want to keep the plot for your children.

A will is a document designed for use at any time. In Wisconsin, anyone over 18 years of age and “of sound mind” can have a will, but they are only useful when they are correct and accurate. Otherwise, your beneficiaries could face a major legal headache trying to determine your final wishes.