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When should someone change a will?

As many California residents may know, life events may necessitate changes in a person's will. This may be done by rewriting the original will to ensure that the decedent's wishes are followed. Knowing when a will needs to be changed and keeping it updated is important.

Marriage is a milestone that marks new beginnings, and most advisers urge a recently married couple to set up wills to mandate how their estates will be handled. State intestacy laws provide a surviving spouse with a percentage of the estate if the other spouse dies without a will. In common law marriages, legal in some states, if qualifications are met, the percentage of the estate given to a survivor may be the same as if they were married. Non-married partners are not routinely given a percentage of an estate in states without common law marriage.

In some states, divorce revokes a will when it is finalized. If the will is not automatically revoked, divorce may herald a change in what a testator wishes to leave to a former spouse. Having children often requires a will for several reasons. Making arrangements for the child's care and who may serve as guardian until the child reaches emancipation is crucial. In addition, an individual may wish to include bequests to stepchildren.

If a testator changes his or her mind about who to name as beneficiaries and does not draft a new will to reflect this, the old will stands. When updating a will it is important to indicate that the current will revokes all previous wills. It is advisable to keep a will current, and consulting with an attorney who has experience in estate planning may be beneficial in that regard.

Source: Findlaw , "Changing a Will", November 24, 2014

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