How Can A Person Change A Will?

How Can A Person Change A Will?

If a will is valid, it is effective until it is changed, revoked, destroyed or invalidated by the writing of a new will. Changes or additions to an otherwise acceptable will can be most easily accomplished by adding a codicil. A codicil is a document amending the original will with equally binding effect. Therefore, a codicil must be executed in compliance with applicable law, using the same formality as the original will. Wills cannot be changed by simply crossing out existing language or adding new provisions, because those changes do not comply with the formal requirements of will execution.

Accounting For Changes In Personal Property

Changes to an individual’s personal property may prompt a change to an existing will. To avoid frequent changes as property is acquired, a will can specify that personal property (property other than money and real estate) is to be distributed in accordance with instructions provided in a separate document. Many states provide for such a document, which can be updated as often as needed without requiring a formal codicil or revised will. A personal property instruction should be kept with the will to which it relates and should describe each item in detail to avoid later confusion or hard feelings.

Keep Your Will Up To Date

An outdated will may not achieve its original goals because its underlying assumptions have changed. Additionally, changes in probate and tax law may change the effectiveness of certain provisions. If a will is based on outmoded circumstances – for example, if a chosen devisee has died or has alienated the testator – the probate period may be extended as the court determines how to construe the old provisions. Wills should be reviewed at least every two years as well as upon major life changes, such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces, and major shifts in a testator’s property. Because state law governs wills, if a testator moves to another state, the will should be reviewed for compliance with the new state’s laws.

You Can Revoke Your Will

As long as the testator is mentally competent, his or her will can be revoked entirely without replacement by a new document. A testator can revoke a will by intentionally destroying, obliterating, burning or tearing the will. If the will was executed in multiple originals or additional copies exist, those should be treated in the same fashion. If a testator wants to minimize estate taxes and probate, he or she should make validly executed changes to a will or replace the will with a subsequent will rather than completely revoking the will. If undertaken, however, the testator should have the revocation witnessed and recorded to avoid future contentions that the will is still valid but has been lost.

Contact Charles M. Hall, P.C., For Additional Answers To Your Estate Planning Questions

I am attorney Charles M. Hall, and I serve clients in and around Atlanta, Georgia. For help with your will or larger estate plan, call my office at 404-865-1966 or message me online.