In the intricate tapestry of life, change is inevitable. As the chapters unfold, so do your circumstances, priorities, and relationships. These events often necessitate updates to your estate plan to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your current wishes.

It’s crucial to ensure that your legal documents mirror your current realities. This is especially true for residents of Illinois, where specific legal nuances may impact the process of updating one’s estate plan

Most experienced estate planning advocates advise reviewing and updating your estate plan at least every three to five years. Let’s take a more in-depth look at when and how to navigate the terrain of changing your will in the Prairie State.

Altering Outdated Outlooks

Marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, the acquisition of significant assets, or the passing of a loved one can significantly alter your financial and familial landscape. Therefore, it’s important to periodically review and, if necessary, revise your overall estate plan regularly

A will crafted in the past may no longer align with your desires and objectives. An outdated will may not provide for your current beneficiaries — for example, leaving nothing for a new spouse, step-children, or adopted family members.

Additionally, changes in tax laws, property values, state statutes, and your own priorities can further render old estate plans obsolete. While your will can never expire, it can become irrelevant and possibly invalidated by occurrences like getting married or moving to another state where the laws around wills, trusts, and probate are different

Handwritten wills are recognized as legal in Illinois, as are those drafted online, but they must witnessed and signed according to state law. Public Act 102-160 went into effect on January 1, 2022, and allows remote online notarizations and the witnessing of documents through audio-visual communication (i.e., via Zoom or FaceTime).

Improperly executed wills or those with markups and changes could be contested in probate court. If your estate plan includes a will created by hand or electronically, you should consult an experienced attorney to ensure your current dependents are properly provided for and that these documents meet current state requirements.

Weddings, having children, relocating, switching careers, and heading into retirement are all prime times to reconsider your plan. A decline in health may also necessitate adjustments, particularly if you need to appoint someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Updating your plan guarantees that your wishes regarding medical care and end-of-life decisions are clearly communicated.

Looking Forward

During these common life milestones, many people reevaluate which individuals or organizations they would like to provide for in the future. Your beneficiaries can be any person or entity you choose to leave funds or other assets to

Make sure primary and contingency beneficiaries on all non-probate assets like life insurance policies and retirement accounts accurately reflect what you would want should something happen to you. For example, in other states, ex-spouses can sometimes remain accidentally listed on 401(k)s or pensions even after divorces are finalized.

One of the first steps in building a comprehensive estate plan is creating an inventory of what you actually own. These tangible assets can include:

  • Homes, rental properties, and other real estate
  • Vehicles and boats
  • Antiques, jewelry, and art
  • Personal possessions and heirloom items
  • Bank accounts and certificates of deposit
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement plans
  • Business ownership

It’s vital to consult with an estate planning attorney, especially if you are a parent of minor children. Naming a guardian (and a backup) can help avoid costly and upsetting litigation. You may also want to consider establishing a trust for your beneficiaries. 

A revocable living trust can be created to manage your assets for yourself or your heirs in the event of serious illness or incapacitation. “Revocable” means you can change the terms, trustees, or beneficiaries if your life circumstances change or your family expands. 

Advanced medical directives are another essential part of your overall estate plan. These legal documents outline your wishes for healthcare, long-term care, and end-of-life decisions. Ensuring your living will, powers of attorney, and mental health treatment declarations are up to date will give you and your loved ones invaluable peace of mind. Be sure the person (or people) you designate is someone you can fully trust. 

An Experienced Partner for Every Stage of Life

Life’s journey is dynamic, and your estate plan should evolve in tandem with it. Whether you’re celebrating new beginnings or navigating challenging transitions, keeping your will up-to-date is a responsible and caring act. 

At the Law Offices of J. Jeltes, we have decades of experience helping individuals and families navigate complex situations such as divorce, adoption, creating wills and trusts, and initiating guardianships for children and adults. 

No one should let an outdated will thwart their legacy and enduring impact beyond this life. With compassion and expertise, we create flexible plans to shape your legacy — contact us today!