How To Change a Will

How To Make Changes to Your Will

Changing your will is not complicated. There are two options to consider if you want to make changes to your will after you and your witnesses have signed it. (1) You can either make a codicil to your existing will or (2) create a new will. Both will require your signature and the signatures of two witnesses.

In some cases, if the changes you will want to make to your will will be minimal, a codicil is a good option for this scenario.

Now, in most cases, it makes more sense just to make a new will by revoking the old will and creating a new one. This will reduce the potential of any confusion that might occur from having an “add-on” to your will (i.e. extra pages lost or misconstrued). Again, you along with two witnesses would sign it just as you did the first one.

Create a Will Codicil

To create a codicil is simple. Think of a codicil as a legal “P.S.” to your will. You write down what you want to remove or what you want to add to your existing will. Then you along with two witnesses sign it again (as you did with your original will). You then keep it with your will. Upon your death, your will and codicil will be read and interpreted as one. If you are apprehensive about drafting your own codicil, you can always have an experienced Orange County will attorney draft it for you.

Write a New Will

If you have significant or substantial changes that need to be made to a will, writing a new will might be your best option, especially if you plan to make big changes, like substituting beneficiaries, for example. You must include a written statement in your new will that you revoke all previous wills and codicils previously made by you. The old wills and any copies should be destroyed and eliminated to prevent any potential confusion. Again, you don’t necessarily need an attorney to write a new will, but if you have several assets and distributions you would like to make, an estate planning lawyer might make the process more seamless.

Make a Personal Property Memorandum

A personal property memorandum is a document that is separate from your will or trust. It permits you to freely put together a list of your smaller, tangible items such as clothing, jewelry or pieces of art that you intend for a beneficiary. In certain states and circumstances, you can even include vehicles in the memorandum.

In contrast, examples of intangible assets that cannot be included in your personal property memorandum are real estate, money and bank accounts, IOUs, stocks/bonds, and copyrights.

A couple benefits of a personal property memorandum are that it is much easier to update at any time since it does not require you to amend or re-sign your will or trust and it does not have to be witnessed in order to be legally binding. The only requirement is that it typically begins with the following statement (or similar): “I bequeath the following items of tangible personal property to the beneficiaries listed below.”

When to Change a Will

Your will should be updated whenever you feel it’s necessary to do so. It is a good idea to review your estate plans every three to five years, but should you have any major life events occur, such as marriage, children and grandchildren, a death in the family, you might consider making changes to your will.

Marital Changes

If you are recently married or divorced, it’s time to revisit how your will is written, and most likely, update it. You should find out if you live in a community property or common law state as well.

New Additions

Any new additions to the family, such as the births of children or grandchildren, would be a good reason to update your will as well as stepchildren, if you remarry and become a blended family.

Familial Changes

If a named beneficiary passes away, you should revise your will to either name a new beneficiary or to redistribute inheritances amongst remaining beneficiaries. Additionally, if an appointed executor passes away, you should revise your will and choose another executor to take his or her place. Other major events could include selling or buying real estate, or the purchase or sale of jewelry or art.

Before a Trip

If you are planning an extensive trip, it would be a good idea to review your will and update it, if needed.

Revoking a Will

Revoking a will is an essential part of the process when creating a new will. To revoke a will, you include a written statement in your new will that you revoke all previous wills and codicils previously made by you. The original and any copies of the old will should be destroyed so as to not ever be mistaken for a current will. As with your first will, your new will must be executed and signed according to state law to become the only valid will.

Altering a Will

Altering a will is simple. All you need to do is create and execute a codicil if you need to make a small change to an existing will, (i.e. changing your executor).

What Are the Next Steps After Updating Your Will?

After you have updated your will, you will need to get the proper notarized signature and witnesses to satisfy your state laws and ensure your will is valid.

After all the effort put into your will, the last thing you want to do is lose it! You’ll want to find a home for it, somewhere safe and, if possible, take it a step further, and let someone you trust know where your estate planning documents are located for safekeeping purposes.

Thereafter, you will want to keep your will up-to-date as it is an essential tool in protecting your family and assets once you have departed.

July 12, 2022

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