Rights & Money

Check and Recheck Your Will

By Olev Edur

My husband passed away last year. A friend has told me that she had to draft a new will and powers of attorney after her own husband passed. Should I do the same?

As we discussed in the February/March issue (“The Importance of Your Will”), it’s important to review your will and powers of attorney regularly, and it’s particularly important to do so after any major change in your circumstances. This is because any changes affecting these documents could render them invalid.

When it comes to powers of attorney, you need to ensure that all the designated people, including backup choices, are still available and willing to act in that capacity. If, as is likely, you appointed your husband as attorney for both your financial and personal/health matters, those documents must be amended and new attorneys appointed. Otherwise, all your financial assets could end up being frozen and inaccessible for an indeterminate length of time and then doled out according to a government formula, and your health care could end up being contrary to your stated wishes.

Similarly, all the provisions in your will could be for naught if you appointed only your husband as executor, without a backup. You’d be deemed to have died intestate—without a will—in which case, the government would take control of your estate and distribute it according to a standard formula rather than according to your wishes. And if, for example, the contact information for beneficiaries isn’t up to date, the result could be lengthy delays at best; at worst, those beneficiaries could lose out on their bequest.

You should check all these documents at least every couple of years, just to make sure that everything is as it should be. And if there are changes to be made, be sure to have a lawyer vet the changes to ensure that you don’t inadvertently do something that might be legally invalid or confusing.