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Address life changes by updating a will to avoid probate dispute

Many residents of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, have drafted a will to ensure that they will leave behind a legacy. Changes happen every day, though, and not everyone has given thought to the idea that those changes can have a significant impact on a person's estate plan.

One of the most common estate planning tools is a will, which should reflect the wishes of the testator after death. A will should be updated to reflect significant life changes. For instance, a will must address marriage, divorce and having a new family member or the death of a family member, who would be included as one of the heirs of the estate. Additionally, a will may assign a guardian for minor children or allot special provisions for their changing needs. For business interests, the testator may assign a successor and provide ownership and buyout options in a will. It is also important to make changes in the will if the testator moves from one state to another because inheritance laws vary by state.

The testator should keep in mind that a valid will is binding and any of its provisions are executable upon death. However, if the will is inconsistent with the wishes of the testator or deviates from what the heirs expect, a will contest may ensue.

The problem with contesting the validity of the will is that it adds stress to the heirs and may result in a deficit in the value of the inheritance because probate litigation can be costly. Beyond that, contesting a will can result in bad feelings against the testator and additional grief to the survivors. Every precaution should be taken to ensure a will contest does not occur.

Source: 23ABC, "Things Change - So Should Your Will," Philip E. Ruben, Oct. 4, 2013

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