Probate & Estate Administration E-Newsletter

It's Time to Change Your Will

It is important to keep your will up to date. This can help to protect against challenges to your will after you are gone as well as help to ensure that the document accurately reflects your wishes. There are certain life events that may make it necessary to modify your will, including:

  • Marriage, divorce or partnership
  • Birth of children, grandchildren
  • Death of beneficiaries
  • Acquisition of new property
  • Selling or disposing of property

If you have recently moved, you will want to make sure your will takes into account any differences in the laws of your new state of residence. For example, if the state you moved to is a community property state, you will want to make sure this is accounted for in your estate planning. As a general rule, the laws of the state where you die and where you own property will determine the distribution of your assets, including those under a valid will.

You also may decide to change your will because you have decided against leaving property to a particular person or entity.

One of the benefits of having a will is that you are able to change the terms of the will rather easily. The two main ways to change your will are by codicil or by creating a new will. A codicil is like an amendment to your will. Codicils allow you to change or modify your will by piecemeal, meaning you can use a codicil to change only one section or several sections of your will. Codicils should be drafted carefully so that your intent in making the change is easily understood.

The more common way to change the terms of a will is simply to create a new one. To be valid, codicils have to meet the same requirements as a will under your state's laws, such as the signature and witness requirements. Given the possibility of causing confusion with a poorly drafted codicil, it may be a better solution to draft a new will.

If you do not update your will, it leaves open the possibility that the terms of your will may be challenged after your death. Will contests can be lengthy and expensive, and also take an emotional toll on your loved ones.

As a general rule, it is a good idea to review your will — and entire estate plan — every 3-5 years to make sure that it accurately reflects your current situation, in terms of your family, finances and goals. The best method to change your will is to contact your estate planning attorney. He or she can make sure your changes meet the requirements of your state’s laws and that your will achieves your estate planning objectives.

Preparing to Meet with Your Estate Planning Attorney

To read and print out a copy of the checklist, please follow the link below.

Preparing to Meet with Your Estate Planning Attorney

You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader here.

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