You should review your Will at least every five years to ensure that any major changes in your financial and personal circumstances are reflected in your Will and that it still reflects your wishes. There are some particularly major life events that affect your Will and estate planning and should make you seriously reconsider the planning in your current Will.
Have you moved recently?
If you have recently moved out of the country or even out of the province, you should consider re-drafting your Will in the new jurisdiction. Each province in Canada has different laws governing estate succession, and planning techniques used in one Province may not be valid or effective in another Province. Moving to another country or acquiring assets in another country can also add complexity to your estate planning that would require revisiting your Will.
Have your appointed Executors moved out of Province or out of country, or no longer get along?
If someone you appointed as an Executor has moved out of the province or country, the courts may require additional steps and expenses for them to act under your Will. Making appropriate provisions to deal with this in your Will or changing your appointed Executor can avoid this. Furthermore, if you’ve appointed multiple executors acting jointly in your Will, do they still get along? If not, you should reconsider these appointments.
Change in Financial Situation or Started a new Business
Perhaps you have come into a large amount of money or have set up a new business or professional practice. These changes can determine which estate planning options will be most beneficial and may influence the way you would like to distribute your estate. If you have established a corporation, reviewing your estate planning options should be top priority.
Change in distribution wishes/beneficiaries
The people in your life and their relationships with you may change since your last Will was prepared. Perhaps they have passed away or your relationship has changed. Your Will should reflect who you would like to benefit from your estate when you are gone. Reviewing your Will and making changes is the only way to make sure your wishes regarding your assets are honoured.
Engagement or Marriage
Did you know that, in Ontario, your Will is revoked on marriage? Marrying without first dealing with this revocation issue could leave you without a valid Will and your estate at the mercy of the intestate succession rules. Without a valid Will you have no control over your assets on your death or to whom they are transferred, and you will not be able to implement probate tax-saving strategies.
If you have married it is a good time to consider the role of your new spouse in your estate plan and to create a new Will.
If you are engaged and would like to prevent your existing Will from being revoked on marriage, this can be achieved through proper planning.
Divorce or Separation
Divorce, unlike marriage, will not result in the revocation of your Will. However, the appointment of your former spouse as an executor and any gifts to your former spouse will be treated as though your former spouse has predeceased you. The Executor appointment and gifts in the Will will go to the backup(s) named in the Will (if any).
It is very important to amend your Will upon separation. A separation alone will not affect the validity of your Will or any of the appointments or gifts in it. If you are separated, fail to update your will, and you die before your divorce is finalized, then your spouse will still receive all gifts and appointments as laid out in the existing Will.
Your Will should be reviewed and likely changed after a divorce or separation so you can ensure that it still reflects your wishes. It is also an important time to reconsider your beneficiary designations on any Insurance products, RRSPs, TFSAs and the like, that you may own.
Death of your spouse
The death of your spouse will affect your Will in much the same way as a divorce. It is important to make sure that the backup executors are still the people best equipped to shoulder the heavy responsibility of administering your estate and that your backup beneficiaries are still people you would like to benefit.
Birth of children
Providing for the care of your children is one of the most important reasons to implement an Estate Plan. Your Will should ensure that you can appoint a Guardian for your children and to provide for them financially, by way of gifts or even trusts (to ensure they do not receive their entire inheritance at age 18). The birth of a new child is the perfect time to ensure that your Will covers all your children and leaves them protected and with adequate care.
If you have a child with a disability, reviewing your Will and estate planning options can allow you to ensure that your child is cared for when you are gone. If you do not implement specific planning measures in your Will, your child’s access to government benefits may be clawed-back or taken away entirely.
If any of these situations have happened, or will happen soon, you should review your Will and contact your lawyer if amendments may be required. The situations above are only some of the possible reasons why you should review your old Will. If it has been five years since you last thought about your Will and your estate planning, now is a good time re-examine you existing Will and estate plan. Not doing so can lead to unwanted and unintended consequences that can affect your surviving family.