Experts: To make sure your wishes are carried, make sure to have an update will
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Good job on including a will in your final planning (you do have a will, don’t you?). While writing a legal will is important, it’s nearly as important to periodically review them. Wills need occasional updating to ensure your wishes are carried out and your beneficiaries receive fair treatment.
Here’s what two local experts recommend.
Tips form Jason Livingston, attorney and partner, Law Office of Pullano & Farrow, PLLC, Rochester:
• “Oftentimes, if people have a change, like retirement for example, that’s a good reason to revisit their will.
• “If your children are now responsible adults who can be appointed to key positions. Oftentimes, we see clients come to us who are 55-plus and their wills are from when their children were minors 20 to 30 years ago. They named their parents or siblings as key positions. Now their children are of an age where they can be appointed to those key positions and the parents could be gone.
• “If their portfolio or net worth has increased, they may want to look at the will and what they would allocated to their intended beneficiaries. Are they leaving it to children, their charitable interests, do they now have grandchildren they want t provide for? If so, how? More often, clients are vague, like ‘All of my assets divided three ways.’ Estate tax may affect them if it exceed the state levels.
• “If they’re starting to look at asset protection from long-term care costs, that’s a reason to meet with an attorney and look at your will structure.
• “If any beneficiaries have proven they’re irresponsible with money or have drug or alcohol problems, trusts can protect them from themselves.
• “I advise you look at it every five years. Pull it out. There may be no reason to change, but at least you refresh your memory.”
Tips from Anthony Fama, attorney and owner, Law Offices of Anthony Fama, Rochester:
• “Most of the time, they’re looking at changes in their personal affairs, such as marriage, divorce, childbirth or adoption, or if a family member who’s already in the will passes away.
• “It might be such as when a person changes jobs and moves to a new city or retires.
• “We can go over and look at the will and see if it’s doing what you want it. It’s going to take some time because you need to consider your situation, discuss your financial circumstances with the attorney. State laws deal with the way the person’s assets are distributed. state laws have a set of determinations if the will isn’t adequate. Under those changes in circumstances, it may be cheaper to sit down with an attorney and spend some time and a few hundred dollars than to let state laws dictate what will happen with the property. It may go to someone whom they have no intention having any part of their estate. It’s best to talk it over with an attorney.
“Any time there’s a major life change, like issues of sickness, moving from one community to another, these are things that should trigger a second look at your estate plans.”