How to Change Your Heirs in Your Will

By Anna Assad

In your will, you name an executor, the person who will manage your estate according to the distribution instructions that you also provide in your will. If your will meets your state's requirements, the probate court will uphold it and the executor becomes legally bound by its terms. He will have to give your property to the persons you named as the recipients of the property in your will. If you change your mind after you make your will, you must change your will or make a new one. Otherwise, people you don't want to inherit from you will receive property from your estate.

In your will, you name an executor, the person who will manage your estate according to the distribution instructions that you also provide in your will. If your will meets your state's requirements, the probate court will uphold it and the executor becomes legally bound by its terms. He will have to give your property to the persons you named as the recipients of the property in your will. If you change your mind after you make your will, you must change your will or make a new one. Otherwise, people you don't want to inherit from you will receive property from your estate.

Codicil

A codicil is a separate document you use to make changes to your original will. If you want to remove a beneficiary, you may use a codicil to change the part of the will that lists that beneficiary. Laws for codicils vary by state, but you usually must clearly identify the original will's date, what you are changing in the will and your new terms. You must sign the codicil in most cases, and you may need the signatures of one or more adult witnesses as well. You may attach a codicil to your original will; if your codicil is stored separately, there's a chance it will be overlooked after you die. An error in your codicil, or in its creation, may render the document useless in court. If you're making major or several changes to your will, a codicil may not be the most appropriate option for you.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

New Will

You may make a new will entirely to change your beneficiaries. The new will must conform to state standards and you must follow all legal requirements, as you did with the previous will. Often, when a person makes a new will, she includes a statement that says she's revoking all prior wills; this means the new will and its terms will replace any older wills. If you make a new will, tell your executor and a trust family member of its location. If no one knows about your new will, your old will may be presented in court instead.

Invalid Wills

If you make a new will to change beneficiaries, but the new will doesn't meet your state's standards, your state's intestacy laws will determine the distribution of your estate. Intestacy laws don't take any of your wishes or your heirs' needs into consideration. Although the laws differ by state, your spouse and children are usually the first in line to inherit your estate. If you don't have children or aren't married when you die, your estate may pass to your parents or siblings.

Considerations

You might not be allowed to disinherit your spouse or your children in your will, depending on your state's laws. Some states provide automatic estate shares to spouses and children, regardless of what you leave to them in your will. The American Bar Association doesn't recommend altering your original will by crossing out provisions or writing over words. Whether you're allowed to alter your original will by hand depends on your state's laws and the requirements for such alterations. Even if your state allows alterations by hand, the court must decide whether you made the changes to your will yourself and interpret what you meant if you write in new provisions or remove existing lines.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Do I Need a Lawyer to Add an Executor to My Will?

References

Related articles

Illinois Laws on Wills

A valid will can nominate someone to manage your estate and detail how your property should be distributed when you die. In Illinois, wills must comply with the Illinois Compiled Statutes, which address requirements such as the age and mental condition of the person making the will. If your will doesn't meet these requirements, it may be declared invalid, and your estate will be distributed according to state law.

How to Nullify an Executor on a Will

If you want to nullify the executor on your will, you can amend your will by executing a codicil. Codicils are suitable for making minor changes such as removing an executor and naming a new one. However, if there are other portions of your will you want to change, it's advisable to make a new will that unequivocally and expressly revokes your existing will.

How to Amend a Last Will & Testament

Finishing your last will and testament can feel like a huge weight off your shoulders. However, as your life circumstances change, you may find yourself needing to change your will. This is especially true if you add family members such as children, change family members as in remarriage, or buy or sell significant assets such as the family home. There are two ways to change your last will and testament: by adding a codicil (or amendment), or by rewriting your will.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Adding to an Existing Legal Will

Life is constantly changing, and some of the changes may affect your estate plan. Loved ones may die before you do, or ...

How to Write an Amendment to a Will

Once a will is written, signed, and witnessed, it is legal in most states as long as it meets state law requirements. ...

Laws Against Will Alteration

The last will and testament a person might execute is not necessarily the final word on how that person's estate will ...

How to Make Changes to a Legal Will in Maine

If you live in Maine and you'd like to make changes to your will, you may execute a codicil. Codicils are separate ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED