Q: If I leave something to someone in my will, what happens if I give it away during my lifetime? Should I write a new will?
A: If you make a specific bequest in your will and you no longer own it on the day of you die, the specific bequest should fail. If you don't own it when you die, you can't bequest it.
On the other hand, make sure that if you give something away, you actually give it away. Don't give your granddaughter your favorite necklace but hold onto it for her. There could be ugliness if you still have the necklace that your will leaves to your niece but your granddaughter thinks you gave it to her.
You shouldn't have to make a new will. However, if you do, consider asking your attorney to include a provision referencing a personal property distribution letter. The benefits of using a personal property distribution letter in your estate plan is that you can update it from time to time. If you change your mind, you can tear up the letter and write a new one.
Q: If all I want is a will, do I really need all of the other documents that you keep writing about? Can't I simply get a will?
A: Absolutely. If all you want is a will, you can limit your estate planning to a will.
However, if you are going to spend the time and the money addressing your estate planning needs, why limit to one aspect of it? Remember, that estate planning is much more than simply getting your stuff to your loved ones.
In the event that you become incapacitated, your will won't authorize someone to take care of your finances. The will won't let your loved ones write checks from your bank account or withdrawal money from your IRA should you require the funds.
If you unable to make medical decisions for yourself, your will won't allow someone to make them for you. Without the proper documentation, there may not be anyone who can talk with your doctor or give him or her authorization to provide you with medical care. Can you say guardianship?
Can you simply execute a will? Sure, but it's an incomplete estate plan and it only addresses the distribution or your property. Estate planning is so much more than getting your stuff to your loved ones. If you're going create an estate plan, do it right.