Does my will automatically update if I have a child?

Having a child brings many changes to your life, including your estate planning needs. When you have a child — whether it’s your first or your third — it’s important to review your will and make sure that it reflects your current wishes. Your will won’t automatically update if you have a child, and it’s up to you to make the necessary changes.

If your family is expanding, one of our skilled attorneys can help you determine if your existing will needs to be modified to reflect the change in circumstances. Call (855) 541-4867 to schedule a consultation and discuss your needs, or read on for more information about updating a will when a child is born.

How a new child impacts your will

A will is a legally binding document that outlines the distribution of your assets after you pass away. It also allows you to designate guardians for your minor children.

No living child at the time of execution

If a person executes a will under the following circumstances, their child is entitled to receive the same portion of their parent’s estate in the same way as if they died without a will (intestate): 

  • They have no children, or
  • They have a  child who is born or adopted after the execution of the will and isn’t provided for or mentioned in the document

When additional children are born

Unless your will includes language stating otherwise, the best practice is to update your Will to ensure that your afterborn children take in the manner you intend.

If you have a child after creating your will and don’t update it to name the new child, the new child may be included in the distribution of your assets, but based on the amounts and in the manner prescribed by Virginia law, which is no better than having your assets pass via intestate succession (meaning, without a will).

If you want to control how each child inherits and in what amounts, then you need to update your Will after the birth of a new child unless your will includes language that specifically addresses how after born children are to be addressed.

In either scenario, if you don’t update your will to name a guardian for your new child, the court decides who’s best suited to serve as guardian. Even if you have other children who are already named in your will along with a guardian, their guardianship may not be automatically extended to the new child.

How to update your will after having a new child

There are two primary ways to update a will. The first is to create an entirely new one. This option may be preferable if your circumstances have changed drastically since you first created the document. If you wish to make a new will, you’ll need to include language revoking the old one, then go through the process you went through when you created your original will.

The second option is to create an amendment, also known as a codicil. A codicil is essentially a new section tacked onto the end of your existing will that updates or changes certain sections.

To add a codicil to your will, you’ll need to sign it along with two witnesses. However, simply writing and signing a codicil won’t necessarily mean your child is added to your will. A single choice of words can make a major difference in legal interpretation, so it’s essential to have your codicil reviewed by an estate planning attorney to make sure that it reflects your wishes accurately.

When should you update your will to reflect a new child?

Ideally, you should update your will as soon as possible after the birth or adoption of a new child. The more time that passes before you update the document to reflect the new addition to your family, the greater the likelihood of your original will being interpreted without the new child in mind.

Keep in mind that you can make updates to your will even before your child is born if you know that one is on the way. In fact, that’s often the best course of action since it’s more difficult to find the time and energy for estate planning during those first months with a newborn. It also eliminates the possibility of complications arising if something were to happen during or soon after birth.

Call today for help from our trusted attorneys

Remember, estate planning is a proactive process that requires ongoing review and maintenance, especially when your family dynamic changes. If you have a new child in the picture, the experienced attorneys at Select Law Partners, PLLC can help you make sure your will is up-to-date. We can also help you determine if any other estate planning considerations should be made to reflect your family’s newest addition. 

Call (855) 541-4867 to schedule a consultation with one of our esteemed Fairfax estate planning attorneys and begin protecting your family’s future.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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