Does a Last Will & Testament Supersede Other Documents?

By Elizabeth Rayne

Thinking about the distribution of assets following death is not exactly a comforting topic. However, understanding which documents are superseded by a will can make sure that a decedent's wishes are effectively carried out. Certain property, including life insurance, retirement plans, trusts, and certain types of accounts such as POD accounts, are distributed by action of law upon death, and cannot be superseded by a will.

Thinking about the distribution of assets following death is not exactly a comforting topic. However, understanding which documents are superseded by a will can make sure that a decedent's wishes are effectively carried out. Certain property, including life insurance, retirement plans, trusts, and certain types of accounts such as POD accounts, are distributed by action of law upon death, and cannot be superseded by a will.

Probate and Nonprobate Property

When an individual drafts a will, he provides for distribution of probate property. Nonprobate property automatically disperses upon the death of the individual, and as a result, the legal documents related to nonprobate property essentially supersede provisions in the will. Examples of nonprobate property include assets transferred by contract, jointly owned property and trusts. During an individual's lifetime, he may enter into a contract for a pension, life insurance policy or retirement plan that automatically passes to someone else after death, despite what may be in the individual's will.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Joint Tenancy

When two or more individuals jointly own property, depending on the type of ownership, it might not be possible to pass the property in a will. An individual may pass his share of the property only if the deed to the property is titled as "tenants in common." However, if the deed or other legal conveyance specifies that the property is owned by "tenants by the entirety," or "joint tenants with the right of survivorship," a will cannot pass the property. Instead, the property is automatically passed to the other owners of the property.

Codicils

Any time after a will is drafted, you may add additional provisions that supersede the will. Amendments to the will are referred to as codicils. However, to add new provisions that supersede the will, codicils must be properly executed. If you cross out provisions and write in new amendments in the margins, the codicil will likely be ineffective. Instead, you must follow the same laws for drafting the will, and follow the requirements for witnesses and signatures. Further, you must list the date the codicil was drafted.

Power of Attorney

Unlike codicils and legal documents concerning nonprobate property, wills do supersede Power of Attorneys. A POA is a legal document that grants another person the authority to act on your behalf. However, a POA automatically terminates when the principal, or the person is granting authority under the POA, dies. In drafting a will, you may appoint an executor who will be responsible for taking care of your probate estate after you pass away.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
Does Survivorship Override the Will?

References

Related articles

Examples of Codicil to a Will in California

A codicil amends a will. If a will represents the thoughts of the person drafting the document (the “testator”), then the codicil is the testator's change of mind. A codicil to a California will can change any part of the will, including who gets the testator's money or other property and who will be named as a guardian for the testator's children. In California, the testator must follow the same formalities in drafting a codicil that are required when drafting a will.

Does a Will Supersede a Pay on Death Account in California Law as to Inheritance Rights?

When people die, their assets must be collected, protected and distributed. In California, probate courts oversee the collection and safeguarding of probate assets and their ultimate distribution to beneficiaries or heirs. But not every asset the deceased owned will pass through probate. Some types of asset ownership provide for the property to directly transfer to another person upon the owner's death; these include payable-on-death bank accounts.

South Carolina Estate Laws

All of the property a person acquires during his life is collectively called an estate. When that person dies, the estate passes to his beneficiaries. In South Carolina, an estate can pass by will or through intestate succession. Additionally, certain property passes automatically based on type of ownership or through spousal right.

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

Related articles

Is Amending Your Will Yourself Legal in Iowa?

A will or testament is a legal document that disposes of property upon a person's death and designates a guardian for ...

California Divorce & Estate Planning

In California, divorce may legally affect many of your estate planning documents, such as wills, trusts and medical ...

Does a Will Supersede a Trust?

A will and a trust are separate legal documents that commonly work together under a unified estate plan. While the will ...

List of the Different Types of Wills

Wills must meet certain standards to be valid. The person making the will, known as the testator, must be at least 18 ...

Browse by category