Happy New Year! Since today is New Year’s Day, it seemed like a good time to bring up a frequently asked question: When should I update my will/trust? I have colleagues who recommend reviewing your will and trust every New Year’s Day to ensure it’s up to date.

But do you really need to review your will and trust every year? And at what point do you need to stop reviewing and start updating?

Personally, I do recommend annual reviews of your will and trust to make sure they’re up to date. At the same time, I recognize that not everyone is able (or willing) to look at their trust every year. At a minimum, though, you should look at it at least every five years, because a lot can change in that time period.

As far as when an update is required, that has less to do with timing and more to do with circumstances. Here are some events that might make updating a good idea:

  1. Changes in the tax laws. Tax laws are always changing, and there have been some significant changes in the estate tax laws over the last decade (and another one is expected to hit in 2026). If you and your spouse made an estate plan before 2013, there is a high likelihood you’ll want to update to take advantage of these changes. Other estate plans may have been impacted by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, and high net worth individuals should be checking to see if the tax changes in 2026 will affect them.
  2. Changes in personal circumstances. Major life events will continue throughout your life, and it’s always a good idea to update your will and trust when they do. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and buying and selling property are all very good reasons to look at your estate plan and make some updates. You don’t want to accidentally disinherit a child because you failed to update your plan after they were born (which happened to Heath Ledger and Michael Crichton, leading to some messy court drama).
  3. Changes in personal preferences. Sometimes your life circumstances haven’t changed much, but those of your intended trustees and beneficiaries have. One of my early clients had a friend who was set to get a chunk of their estate. In the ten years since the trust was made, that friend had become a drug addict. Not surprisingly, they wanted to make sure this friend did not receive anything from them. On the more positive end, sometimes a child is not named as a trustee due to a lack of maturity (or simply being too young in general), and their life circumstances change so the parent now considers them responsible enough to handle the job.

Since there’s no telling when one of these changes might occur (and I suspect you probably won’t immediately think of your estate plan when they do), it’s an excellent idea to review your estate plan regularly so you can catch these outdated provisions and update them before too much time passes. If you would like some help reviewing your will and trust, you are welcome to email me at kaway@kawaylaw.com.

Kelly Way Attorney pic and bio Kelley Way was born and raised in Walnut Creek, California. She graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in English, followed by a Juris Doctorate. Kelley is a member of the California Bar and an aspiring writer of young adult fantasy novels.