For a variety of reasons, most people in California and elsewhere do not have a will. Estate planning is a personal and challenging task, so once a will is in place, it may seem like a victory. The testator -- the person who writes the will -- may be surprised to know that a will is a document that requires frequent reviews and revisions. In fact, there are specific times when updating one's will is critical.
No one's life remains stagnant. After writing a will, it is likely that things will change and the terms of the will may no longer be relevant. For example, a testator may name an heir who passes away after the will is signed. A testator who remarries after a spouse dies but fails to update the will may leave the new spouse with a frustrating and expensive legal battle to claim his or her fair share of the estate.
Other common changes that can affect the contents of one's estate plan include marriage, the birth of a child or grandchild, the care of a dependent with special needs, or changes in one's business or finances. The testator may move to a different state whose laws do not conform with those for the previous residence. It is also common for testators to simply change their minds about the goals they want their wills to accomplish.
Because there are so many options for an estate plan, it is possible for testators to find just the right instruments to meet their unique needs. However, all of this can be pointless if they fail to keep their documents valid and current. Meeting periodically with an estate planning attorney can help anyone in California establish an estate plan that can grow and change through all phases of life.