Anytime you or a family member experiences a life change, you may need to update your Will to accommodate the new situation. There are multiple life changes that might require you to do so, such as:
- A marriage or divorce
- Birth or adoption of a new child
- Death of a beneficiary
- Changes in your estate or estate tax laws
- Changes in your property holdings
- Your children are no longer minors
- A guardian or trustee is no longer willing or able to serve
If you find yourself in need of changing your Will, there are generally three options available to you: Codicils, New Wills, or a Separate Writing for Tangible Property.
A codicil is a document added to the Will that simply amends the Will or a portion of it. They are often executed in the event of minor life changes, such as the bequest of new property. They do, however, need to follow the same formalities that Wills do. For example, codicils generally require “testamentary capacity” — which is the understanding of the effects of making a Will or a codicil — and witnesses.
In the event of life changes, you may want to completely revoke your Will and execute a new one. This can be necessary in the event of a marriage, divorce, or significant change in your estate.
The most important part of creating a new Will is ensuring that your old Will is *not* honored after your death. Executing a new Will often has the effect of revoking your old one, but you will want to state in your new Will that you are revoking your previous Will (or Wills)
You may also need to destroy your old Will, as well as all physical copies, in front of a witness. Please consult with an attorney before doing so to ensure that you’re complying with all state laws.
Separate Writing for Tangible Property
Many states recognize a separate writing for personal property, which is a document that can be used to address bequests of personal items — such as jewelry, family heirlooms, cars, and other personal property. This list or separate writing should not include real property.
Separate writings can usually be changed at any time and have legal effect, so long as the testator signs it. A separate writing should be kept with, or attached to, your Will. Generally, a separate writing is referenced in your Will to ensure that an executor or probate court is aware of its existence.
Above all, you should not attempt to change your Will without the counsel of a professional attorney. If you are considering making changes to your Will please call Stanko, Senter & Mitchell today.