After you have made your will, you may find that it contains errors or that you want to amend, change or remove some information. Making corrections on a will without a lawyer is legal as long as your corrections meet the requirements of your state's law for corrections, additions and deletions to wills.
Create an affordable will with LegalZoom
Correction by Codicil
A codicil is a change or correction to a will that is made on a separate piece of paper and attached to the will. Codicils are typically used to change relatively small portions of the will, such as to replace one beneficiary with another, to change the amount of assets each beneficiary gets, or to correct errors in spelling, arithmetic or grammar, according to the Legal Information Institute. A codicil must be signed and witnessed just like the will itself, and the same rules apply in most states to the witnesses of a codicil that apply to the witnesses of the will. However, you do not have to use the same two witnesses you used for your will to make a valid codicil.
Correction by Marking Over
For very small corrections, it may be tempting to simply scribble out the mistake in your will and write in the correct information in the margin. However, you should not make any markings on your will before consulting an attorney. In most states, even a small correction like fixing the spelling of someone's name, must be witnessed properly in order for the correction to be valid. If you do not make your corrective markings according to your state's law for changing a will, the probate court may ignore your correction and distribute your property according to the original will, according to FindLaw.
Correction by Revocation
If your will requires significant corrections or corrections on multiple pages, you may wish to revoke the entire will and start over with a new will. When making your new will, make sure it covers all the property, people and issues you wish to be addressed at your death. You may wish to consult an attorney when you make the will to ensure that your bases are covered and the law is fulfilled. Sign your new will and write the date on it so that it is clear it is newer than your previous will. Also, have your new will witnessed and notarized, if necessary, according to state law. Finally, when your new will is valid and complete, finish revoking your former will by destroying it completely. Shredding and burning are two ways to destroy your former will that are recognized by most states, according to FindLaw.
Correcting Related Documents
Many wills come with an attached personal property memorandum, which is a list of pieces of tangible personal property you own and who you wish to receive each one. If you wish to revise the tangible personal property memorandum, you can do so by writing "Revoked" across each page, signing your name, and adding the date. Then, attach the new memorandum to your will and store your will in a safe place. Most probate courts recognize personal property memoranda without requiring them to be witnessed, according to the American Bar Association, but you may want to consult an attorney before changing the memorandum.
References & Resources
- ABA Guide to Wills and Estates: Codicils
- ABA Guide to Wills and Estates: Tangible Personal Property Memorandum
- FindLaw: When to Change Your Will
- Cornell Legal Information Institute: Codicils
- Louisiana State University: Codicil Language
- Maryland Orphans' Court: About Wills and Codicils
- Judge Merri Rudd: New Mexico Codicils to Wills
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images