7 Reasons to Update Your Will and Related Estate Planning Documents
End of life and incapacity planning are among the most important tasks an individual can complete to ensure that their assets, personal care, and health care are handled appropriately. While it’s not pleasant to think about one’s own death or potential incapacity due to sickness or injury, taking the steps to ensure that your estate planning documents reflect your wishes is well worth the effort.
1. You haven’t drafted a Will: It’s integral that you have a Will so that you can ensure your assets are given to the beneficiaries of your choosing. Otherwise, the intestacy provisions of the Wills Estates and Succession Act of British Columbia will dictate who ends up with an inheritance and who doesn’t. Beloved friends or family members may inadvertently be excluded.
2. You receive a problematic or terminal medical diagnosis: To ensure that you receive satisfactory financial and legal management during periods when you don’t have legal capacity, as an example, falling into a coma, it would be prudent to execute an Enduring Power of Attorney. This document appoints an individual of your choosing to manage your legal and financial affairs. A Power of Attorney does not permit someone to make health care decisions on your behalf – this requires the appointment of a Representative under a Representation Agreement.
3. You have specific instructions you want healthcare providers to follow: If you have specific preferences regarding the scope of medical treatment provided to you when you’re incapacitated, you should execute an Advance Directive. This document can cover preferences such as “do not resuscitate” or “do not provide blood transfusions”.
4. A beneficiary under your Will has become disabled: Unfortunately, if people with disabilities obtain inheritances, their government benefits could be discontinued. To avoid this situation, a will-maker needs to ensure their Will provides fully discretionary trusts for any disabled beneficiaries.
5. You marry, enter a marriage-like relationship or get divorced: While the intestacy provisions of the Wills Estates and Succession Act ensure spouses are provided for in some fashion in the event that there is no Will, the preferable option is to have a Will that fully reflects your wishes. Alternatively, if you divorce or separate from a partner, you need to update your Will. You also need to closely review who benefits from accounts such as group benefits or insurance plans, as the current beneficiary might be your ex.
6. Your financial position significantly changes: If you come into a substantial amount of money by inheritance or other means, you’ll likely want to revise your estate plan to allocate the assets differently. If you do not, a large portion of the funds could fall into the category of residue, and may not go to an intended beneficiary. On the other hand, decreases in income that can come with retirement or losing employment may create a need to revise your Will. If you sell or dispose of assets specifically referenced in your Will to fund your financial needs, the beneficiaries will no longer obtain those gifts. It is prudent to plan ahead and revise your Will as your financial circumstances change.
7. New Grandchildren: If your current Will names specific grandchildren, only those named grandchildren will obtain a share of your Estate. You will need to update your Will to include any new grandchildren.