When was the last time you actually LOOKED at your Will? That's right — the one stuck in the back of your filing cabinet, along with the receipts for stuff you bought in 1991. Are the kids who were then in kindergarten now out of the house and have babies of their own? Does it still name your brother — the one who has since developed a drinking problem — as the executor? If you have $1 million or more worth of combined real estate, investments, and other assets (and despite the recession, there are still folks who do), and you live in a state which still has a separate estate tax (like Massachusetts), does it have any provision for how the taxes might get paid?
I encourage my clients to take their wills out of the file for ten minutes every year or so and just look them over. If the situation hasn't changed, fine — put them back. But if there are now children or grandchildren, or a change (for good or bad) in their financial lives or their health, or it's been five years or more since you and your lawyer have talked, then it's time to come in for an estate plan check-up. Maybe the Will just needs a small tweak, which can be done with a codicil — an amendment to the Will. Maybe it's time for a new Will. But a few minutes of review and a possible update can save your estate thousands of dollars in the future, and give you peace of mind that your plan will work the way you intend.