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Making Changes To Your Will

Making Changes To Your Will


A will describes to the appointed executor, as well as the probate court, how you want your hard-earned assets and property distributed to a certain number of appointed beneficiaries.  However, as wills are legal forms that represent the accumulation of assets in your lifetime, they are very likely to require changes as changes in your life occur.  

For example, the loss or theft of a certain asset can lead to an inaccurate will, requiring revision.  Another example of necessary change is the act of legally separating, or divorce.  If you, for some reason, separate with your spouse, it will likely change the entire landscape of your will.  If you and your ex-spouse have children, particularly children who are minors, it will be even more complicated.

Many people think of a will as something that is written when a person is nearing death, but this assumption is growing increasingly inaccurate.  As people become more aware of the benefits of drafting wills, more and more people are beginning to draft wills earlier in their lifetime, to protect against unfortunate accidents; and as the average age of will creating lowers, more and more changes will be required. Contact a will lawyer to review your case. 

Why Make Changes To Your Will?

Keeping your will up to date is important for its effectiveness.  For example, if you have designated a certain car to your son and end up selling this car, a change should be made to your will.   In this situation, and other situations where you experience a major change in what you own, your will should be specifically modified to display this change.  If you fail to make changes and end up willing property that you do not own, the beneficiaries in your will may experience complications and problems after you pass away (dependent on the jurisdiction). 

When Should You Make Changes To Your Will?

You should aim to review your will every five years or so to ensure that you are keeping up to date.  Your will should be updated not only when there is a major change in what you own, but in situations that change your family status.  Examples of this include marriage, divorce, or the birth of any additional children.  

Marriage – After you marry, or remarry, you should aim to update your will.  In many states, the legal action of marriage entitles your spouse to a certain portion of your assets.  Revising your will in this situation will allow you to leave more or less to your new spouse.

Birth of a Child – If you give birth or adopt a new baby, a change in your will is required to provide a legal guardian should you and your spouse pass away.  

Divorce – A divorce sometimes revokes an existing will, allowing your divorced spouse at part of your estate.  Depending on your state laws, certain changes may be required to the will to ensure that your intentions are met

New Stepchildren – If you inherit new stepchildren, they are not automatically entitled to any of your estate.  That being said, if you want to include your new stepchildren in your will, you should change your will to reflect your new intentions.

Additionally, changes to wills are recommended with changes to your financial situation.  For example:

Moving out of state – As each state has different laws regarding wills, you should learn the laws from the new state to change your will and ensure your beneficiaries are still able to receive the assets you intended for them.

Loss or change of job – If you lose or change your job, your income and benefits will change the value of your assets greatly, forcing changes in your will.

Large amounts of money – If you win the lottery, do well in the stock market, or come into a large sum of money in any other way, changing your will to reflect your current situation is recommended.

How Do you Make Changes To Your Will?

There are two basic ways to update your will.  First, you can write a brand new will with new witnesses and a new signature aimed at revoking the old will.  Second, you can prepare and execute a codicil, a separate document replacing certain provisions to an existing will.  A codicil may be preferable in certain situations, as it may provide tax benefits or maintain the previous will without have to create a new will.  However, a codicil may not suffice for certain changes needed to be made.  In these cases, a brand new will is preferable.  

How Can You Revoke Your Will?

Should you decide that you want to start new with your will, you will need to revoke your previous will.  The revoking of wills usually involves a mentally competent person destroying the document.  However, this act must be, like a creation of a will, witnessed and recorded by people who are not related to you and are not beneficiaries of the will.  This process, if not done correctly, can lead to contesting of the will.  For example, a disgruntled beneficiary may claim that the will was not revoked, but instead, lost.  In some jurisdictions, a change in marital status can lead to an automatic revocation of part of the legal form.