Your will and trust are fluid documents that require updating as life’s circumstances change. They are not a “do it once and forget it” task and here’s why…
These documents are a snapshot of your wishes at the time you signed them. Things change, we change, our family grows and shrinks, our friendship circles expand and contract and what is important to us now will change later.
Pull out your will and/or trust and look, not at the beneficiaries who will get your assets when you die but look at the people you have named to help take care of carrying out your wishes. In the case of a will, this will be the executor. They are responsible for telling the world of your passing, gathering the assets, paying off creditors, taking the estate through the probate system, keeping accounts, filing taxes – all before handing the assets over to your heirs. This person must be trustworthy, unbiased, good with detail and have the patience to deal with the process that may take up to 2 years and with people who want their money now.
Who did you name as your executor? Call/text/email them and ask them again if they are willing to do this task for you. And ask them again every few years. Their own situation can change and what they may have been able to do when you wrote your will versus what they can do now or in the future may be very different.
For a trust, this person will be a trustee or a contingent trustee. Your trust sets out not only what to happen at your death, but also while you are alive. If you are incapacitated, the trustee also administers your trust in addition to their responsibilities after you die. This is an important position, so it is key that you choose the right person. Just like for an executor, they need to have many personal skills and be a paragon. And just like an executor, call/email/text every few years the person you have named to confirm they are still willing and able.
If you are struggling to name someone, it is possible to name a professional company or person whose job is to be the executor and/or trustee. This is often used when there is discord among families. It protects family members by not putting them in a position to make financial decisions. Professionals are often used by someone who does not have close family member or friend capable to stepping in.
Having the will and/or trust is a good thing to do to protect your family and have your wishes carried out. Take the next step and confirm that the good people you have named to help are still be able to do so.