Updating Your Will: A Simple Guide to Protecting Your Assets and Loved Ones

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    If you're reading this article, you may have already completed your will. If not, check out our guide on how to create an online will in 6 easy steps.

    After completing your will, you may be wondering how often you need to update it and what changes you should make over time. A will isn't a one-and-done document but a living and breathing one that should reflect life's changes as they happen. Life events such as the birth of a child, purchasing a new home, marriage, or divorce can all directly impact your wishes.

    Statistics show that one in eight Canadians have an outdated will. In this article, we'll explain why it's vital to keep your will up-to-date, how frequently you should update it, and how Willful can help you stay on top of changes.

    Why would I need to update my will?

    It’s important that your will reflects your wishes, and your wishes may change over time. An outdated will could mean that your assets end up with someone that you’re no longer associated with, like a former spouse or common-law partner. Other life changes, like having a baby, are also reasons why you should update your will. 

    To read more about the life events that might make you want to update your will, read our article Codicils, Amendments, And Executing A New Will: How To Update And Change A Will.

    How often should I update my will? 

    At Willful, we believe that keeping an updated will is important and doing a check-in every 6-12 months, or after any major life events, can help prevent an outdated legal will. 

    What happens if my will is outdated?

    In the event you die without a will, the law says that you have died “intestate,” meaning that you haven’t left any instructions for how you would like your property to be divided and distributed. In comparison, if you die with an outdated will, the last will you created may still be valid but it might not reflect your true wishes. By keeping your will updated, it can also make things less stressful for your loved ones, and reduce the likelihood of conflict because you will have left clear instructions for them. 

    Benefits of keeping an updated will

    There are three main benefits to keeping an updated will: 

    1. Have control over your assets and decide who they go to: Without an updated will, your estate may not be divided how you want it to be. 
    1. Protect your loved ones: A will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children to make sure that they are cared for in the way that you want. Updating your will after the birth of a child, or to reflect changes to who you want to name as guardian and the details related to their guardianship, is one of the most important reasons to keep your will up to date
    1. Make sure your final wishes are honoured: As your life changes, your wishes may change too, and it’s important to make sure that your will reflects those changes over time. By updating your will after major life events, like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the acquisition of new assets, it can make sure that your true wishes are followed after you pass. 

    Lastly, you can’t put a price tag on peace of mind. By having an up-to-date will you can give your loved ones the peace of mind that things will be taken care of after you’re gone.

    How do I update my will? 

    The steps needed to update your will vary based on the type of will that you have and the way that you prepare it. 

    Updating a holographic will 

    In Canada, a will that is written by hand is called a holographic will. To create a holographic will, you must do it yourself, without the assistance of any mechanical devices like a computer or typewriter. Typically, all you need is a pen and paper. 

    While holographic wills are usually simpler and shorter than other types of wills, they still need to be updated regularly to make sure that they reflect your current wishes. If you decide to update your holographic will, be sure to keep only the most recent version and let your executor know about the changes. It's important to avoid a situation where your family members find multiple versions of your will that contradict one another after you pass away. Holographic wills are not the best option if you need to make frequent updates since you will need to rewrite the entire document by hand each time.

    Updating your will with a DIY will kit 

    A DIY will kit is a printed fill-in-the-blank legal document that allows you to fill in the key information about your estate—who you are, who your executor would be, who your beneficiaries would be, and who would be a guardian for your minor child. Think of will kits like Mad Libs for estate planning—you fill in the blanks with your information, and once signed and witnessed correctly, you have a valid will. 

    A downside of using a DIY will kit is that you’ll need to purchase a new template every time your life situation changes and you need to update your will. So, even though will kits seem like a low cost option, the costs can add up over time if you need to make changes. 

    Updating your will with a lawyer

    Creating a will with an estate lawyer is the most comprehensive option, but it's also the most expensive and time-consuming. Estate lawyers are knowledgeable in estate law and can handle complex estates, providing advice on various scenarios. They're also well-versed in estate taxes, offering suggestions on how to minimize them.

    However, the biggest challenges of working with an estate lawyer are the costs and inconvenience. It can be expensive to obtain a will from an estate lawyer, and you usually need to schedule an appointment during their work hours. The same applies when you need to update your will–you may need to pay hundreds of dollars every time you need to make a change and work around the lawyer's schedule. If you have a straightforward estate, this option might be excessive.

    Updating your will with an online platform, like Willful 

    There are a number of benefits of using an online platform to create your will, including the cost, convenience, time, and simplicity. These benefits also apply when you need to update your online will. With Willful, you can update your documents from the comfort of your home, and there's no need to schedule appointments with a lawyer or pay extra fees for each update. With Willful, you can make unlimited updates for free.

    What do I need to do after I update my will?

    When you update your online will, you still need to print and have your will signed correctly to make it legally-binding. Once you sign your new will, your older will automatically becomes invalid, and you should destroy it. Make sure to let your executor know that you’ve created an updated version if you are storing it somewhere different. 

    If you make your online will with Willful, we’ll walk you through these steps with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. 

    No matter how you choose to create your will it’s important to keep it updated so you and your loved ones can have peace of mind that your wishes will be followed after you’re gone. 

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