Wills Codicils to a Will: How and Why to Change Your Will

  1. Life situations change over time. After creating a will, it is advisable to review its terms from time to time to update it to fit current life situations. Experienced attorneys and estate planners suggest reviewing and updating your will every 3-5 years or after a potential major life changing event.

    Why would you want to change your will?

    When people take the time to have a will created, they will often just put it in a safe deposit box or other safe place and which is then forgotten until needed. Your best intentions at one time to deal with estate planning in the event of your death may not fit the needs of your estate many years later. Your will needs to be a fluid document that can be modified and adapt to such changes.

    Listed below are some reasons why you should review and update your will on a regular basis during your lifetime. Since your last will was drafted, you may find the following has occurred:

    • Heirs you have named in your will are now deceased
    • A new baby was born or you adopted a child you wish to include in your estate
    • You got divorced and or remarried and wish to remove/include your ex-wife/spouse
    • New state laws have been passed that will impact your estate planning documents
    • You moved to a different state and different laws may apply
    • You want to change your named guardians for your children
    • Your children are all adults now
    • Your estate value has greatly increased or lost its value
    • You have acquired a significant asset, such as lottery winnings or inheritance
    • You have a IRA, 401K or other qualified plan and circumstances have changed
    • It has been 5 years since your last updated your will
    • You decide you want to specify your funeral arrangements and name an executor to carry out your wishes

    Updating Your Will – The Codicil

    If one or more of the life changing events have happened above since your last will was created, you can either rewrite your will in its entirety or create a “codicil” or amendment to your will. Changing your will requires similar formalities as was necessary for creating your will – you can’t just write changes into your will and initial them. Various state laws state the requirements for a valid codicil to a will, which usually requires a writing, date, signature and witnesses. In some states a “holographic” will or codicil may be valid under certain circumstances, where the “testator” (person writing the will) states his or her intentions in a document that is signed, dated, and written in the handwriting of the testator.

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    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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