Is a Handwritten Change on a Will Legal?

By Beverly Bird

Individual state laws govern wills, so what you can do to your will without invalidating it depends on where you live. Although you don't technically break the law if you make handwritten changes, you run the risk of the court either declining to accept your entire will as valid or refusing to abide by the changes if you don't make them correctly.

Individual state laws govern wills, so what you can do to your will without invalidating it depends on where you live. Although you don't technically break the law if you make handwritten changes, you run the risk of the court either declining to accept your entire will as valid or refusing to abide by the changes if you don't make them correctly.

Formalizing the Change

Having a new will prepared when you want to make substantial changes is always preferable. But if it's difficult for you to get to the lawyer's office, or you just want to amend one item or make a minor change, at least two states have ruled that handwritten updates are acceptable under certain circumstances. A Georgia court ruled that changes to a will were valid if the decedent initialed them. Texas laws provide that such changes are acceptable if you memorialize them in the same way you did your will -- you must place your signature beneath or close to the change.

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Adding a Codicil

Another option is to add a codicil to your will to explain the changes. This also usually requires that you sign it and have it witnessed just as you did your will. In states that recognize holographic or handwritten wills, it may be acceptable if the entire codicil is in your own handwriting, even if your will is not. If you're unsure about the rules in your state, consult with a lawyer to avoid invalidating important aspects of your estate plan.

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Adding to an Existing Legal Will

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How to Change Your Heirs in Your Will

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.

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 be distributed when the will-maker dies. If you are the will-maker, you are free to change your will or revoke it entirely, as long as you are mentally competent. However, simply altering provisions in your will by marking over them may not accomplish your intent.

How to Change a Will While Dying

Circumstances may inspire you to change your will in the last moments of your life. The laws of most states offer one or more ways to change your will while dying. It is best, however, to make any changes to your will as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the last moment, as you may not be able to control the circumstances of your death or your ability to change your will at that time.

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