The short answer is that you should update your will every 5 years or when something significant happens in your life such as divorce, marriage, death, birth, financial changes or sudden windfalls.
Typically, a person’s circumstances change enough in a 5-year period that their will needs updating. Perhaps you and your partner have a child whom you wish to add to your will as a beneficiary. Perhaps you’ve had a falling out with a beneficiary named in your current will. Maybe you’ve received a significant inheritance recently.
Whatever the case may be, major life changes warrant updating your will. For example, in Alberta, marriage automatically revokes a will. Conversely, if you’ve gone through a divorce recently, your ex-spouse or their family members may still have entitlements under your current will. If you receive a large windfall, you may wish to revisit your beneficiary designations.
Updating your will should start with a visit to a reputable Alberta Wills & Estates lawyer. Your lawyer will guide you through your options and update your will according to your instructions.
If you require minor updates, your lawyer may suggest adding a codicil to your current will. A codicil is an addition or supplement that explains, modifies or revokes part of your current will. The word “codicil” comes from the Latin codicillus, which is a small writing tablet. Adding a codicil to your current will may be more cost-effective than drafting an entirely new will.
When making major updates, we recommend drafting a new will altogether. You can revoke your current will by destroying it and creating a new one. If you have lost or neglected to revoke a previous will, courts will usually consider your most recent will as binding.
It’s particularly important to update your will as you age, as any loss of mental capacity down the road would prevent you from updating your will. It’s also important to remember that there are no limits on how frequently you can change your will. If you have a will drafted today and win the lottery tomorrow, you can update your will the day after it’s signed. If you haven’t updated your will recently, the experienced Wills & Estates team at West Legal can provide you with peace-of-mind by updating your will to reflect your current intentions.