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I have a Last Will and Testament from forty (40) years ago. Should I update it?

A Last Will and Testament that was signed many years ago should be reviewed with an estate planning attorney. The estate planning attorney may not recommend any changes to the Last Will and Testament. But given the length of time since the will was signed, an individual’s estate planning needs might be significantly different.

First, several life events may have occurred since the will was first signed. Perhaps the individual’s spouse has passed away. Perhaps a family member or friend was nominated in the will to be guardian of the individual’s children if the parents passed away, and the children are now grown. Perhaps there are grandchildren in the picture now. Any of these events, among others, may color whether a new will should be drafted.

Second, an individual’s original estate planning purposes may be different today than many years ago. For instance, many estate planning attorneys in years past drafted estate plans in order for their clients to maximize estate tax savings. At one point in time, the estate tax kicked in when the estate had $600,000 in it. Obviously, that’s a large amount of property. But today the estate tax does not kick in until $11 million for a single individual. If you are a married, the estate tax does not come into play until the couple has a combined $22 million. Now estate planning attorneys often do not have to use complex estate planning mechanisms to save the client from the estate tax. Thus, many clients’ estate plans may be simplified for ease of administration after client has passed away.

As another example, the client may now be interested in planning for long term care. If the client previously signed their will or trust when they were young parents, and now they are near or past retirement, a basic estate plan may not fit their purposes. Instead, the client may wish to create a trust to expedite Medicaid eligibility.

Third, the client may have acquired property since the last time he/she executed the estate plan. Perhaps the client inherited real estate outside of Indiana. Or perhaps the client now owns a testamentary power of appointment that is to be exercised by will.

The best rule of thumb is probably to have your estate plan reviewed at least every five years to determine whether it needs to be updated. Or, whenever a significant life event has occurred, such as the death of a spouse or other loved one named in the estate plan, the estate plan should be reviewed.