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Updating wills may not always be enough; new ones may be required

The passage of time almost always brings changes to people's lives. As a result, the plans made in the past may no longer reflect the present reality. In turn, this means future needs may not be met. When it comes to wills, it is important to keep them updated to ensure they are properly executed.

Every person in Ontario, regardless of the size of his or her estate, should at least have a will written for the benefit of those loved ones who will ultimately be left behind. However, that list of loved ones may change over time, or at least their legal names might. It is important that a will be specific about naming beneficiaries in order to be sure each person receives their allotted share without undue difficulty.

As an example, imagine a person bequeaths a sum of money to a granddaughter. If the granddaughter marries and changes her surname, but is listed on the will by her maiden name, it is at least possible this could cause confusion. This is an oversimplified example, but it is meant to be illustrative. The point is, names can change, and over the course of time, beneficiaries can become difficult to track down, especially if the executor is not overly familiar with the testator's family and friends.

Making a change to a will, however, is not as simple as scratching out a word and writing in a new one. Changes to an original will must be signed, dated and witnessed to be valid. An improper change could lead to the entire will being declared invalid, or challenged in court. Many life changes such as the birth of children or grandchildren, a change of residence, or death of a beneficiary, should be reflected by creating an entirely new will.

Wills are marvellous tools for passing along gifts to family and other loved ones. In order to be effective, though, they must remain applicable. A lawyer who practices estate law in Ontario can advise on whether a given situation requires an amendment or an entirely new document.

Source: newslocker.com, "Making changes to your will", Ed Oklovich, Feb. 6, 2017

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