Taking the time to put together a will to help guide the distribution of your estate is a serious matter. The process takes time. In addition to figuring out who gets what, the process also involves organizing your financial affairs.
But once you take the time and go through the motions to put it together, does it expire?
This is a great question and one that warrants a bit of discussion. The first is the validity of the will. If the will is valid, or put together as state law requires, it generally will not expire. In Maryland, this means that it must meet various requirements, including:
- Signature. A creator must sign the will. State law also refers to this individual as the testator or testatrix.
- Witnesses. Two witnesses must also sign the will.
- An attestation clause. This portion essentially states that the witnesses are aware of the will and recognize that they are signing their names as witness to the process.
If these steps are taken, the will should be valid until the creator decides to make changes.
Why would I change my will?
There are various life events that should trigger a review of one’s will. These can include changes to the following:
- Family structure. Those who add family members through birth or marriage, or lose family members through death or divorce, may want to update their wills. Without an update, an unintended heir could still get a portion of your estate.
- Tax law. One of the benefits of an estate plan is the ability to take advantage of tax laws. A change in tax laws can mean the estate is responsible for paying a larger tax bill when assets are transferred to beneficiaries. You can reduce this through various estate planning tools. A trust is a common example.
- Change of heart. Our families and relationships evolve. A loved one may fall out of favor. One child may find success and the other needs more financial help. Whatever the reason, those who change their minds about their estate can make changes to their will.
Those who want to change their will can do so by putting together a codicil, or additional document. Simply writing on the existing will is not recommended as it does not guarantee the changes and can lead to more problems.