How to Update Wills

By Andrine Redsteer

It's not uncommon for will makers, known as "testators," to experience life changes that may necessitate an amendment to an existing will. If you wish to update your will, you must comply with your state's laws to ensure your amendment is legally valid. Although every state has its own set of unique statutes that explain how a will may be updated, certain requirements are customary.

It's not uncommon for will makers, known as "testators," to experience life changes that may necessitate an amendment to an existing will. If you wish to update your will, you must comply with your state's laws to ensure your amendment is legally valid. Although every state has its own set of unique statutes that explain how a will may be updated, certain requirements are customary.

Major Life Events

If you've experienced a major life event — for example, the birth of a child or marriage — updating your will may be advisable. If your current will was executed when you were single, but you are now married, you may include your spouse in your new will. If you don't update your will to include your spouse, the laws of your state will dictate how much of your estate she will receive. If your existing will doesn't provide for a child, and you've since become a parent, you may update your will to include your child. If you fail to do so, your state's laws will dictate your child's inheritance as well.

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

Codicils

A codicil is a document that amends a will; it should refer to the will it's amending and be kept with the will. Codicils are generally executed only if a will needs minor changes. State laws vary, but codicils generally need to follow the same formalities wills do. For example, codicils generally require "testamentary capacity" — that is, an understanding of the effects of making a will or a codicil — and witnesses. Because codicils are meant to serve as amendments, they are generally not used to make major changes. For instance, a codicil may be used to add a new bequest of property.

Superceding Wills

If your circumstances require major changes to your existing will, it's advisable to execute a new will. For example, if you're newly married and want to include your spouse or you've decided to omit certain people who are listed as beneficiaries in your existing will, you might consider making a new will. Generally, executing a new will has the effect of revoking a prior will. However, to ensure your new will revokes your prior will, it should expressly state the intention to do so.

Separate Writing for Tangible Property

A number of states recognize a separate writing for personal property. These documents can be used to update wills; they address bequests of personal items — such as jewelry, family heirlooms, furniture and automobiles — and can be changed or amended at any time. A separate writing has legal effect, provided the testator signs it. Separate writings may not include bequests of real estate. Moreover, a separate writing should be kept with a will, or attached to a will, to prevent it from being lost or misplaced. Generally, a separate writing is referenced in a will; this ensures an executor or probate court is aware of its existence.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
Adding to an Existing Legal Will

References

Related articles

How Is a Beneficiary Removed from a Will?

When a person is named in a will, he is called a beneficiary. Heirs, on the other hand, are individuals who stand to inherit from a relative who failed to make a will; thus, leaving inheritance division to the laws of intestate succession. Testators, or will makers, may remove beneficiaries from wills by executing specific documents that effectively disinherit the beneficiary -- usually by express terms.

Problems Probating a Will

When a person dies having made a will, it's referred to as dying "testate." Before a testate decedent's estate can be administered in probate court, his will must be admitted. Often, admitting a will to probate goes off without a hitch — the will is accepted as valid and the probate process proceeds. Sometimes, however, problems can arise. Under these unfortunate circumstances, it's generally advisable to consult an experienced estate planning attorney for assistance.

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 the decedent's minor children, if any. When a person creates a will in Iowa, he must follow the state's prescribed legal procedures for drafting a will so it is valid and will be implemented upon death. The same legal procedures must also be strictly followed to amend a will.

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

Related articles

How to Write an Attachment to an Estate Will

You don't need to start from scratch to make changes to your will. You can modify your will by simply attaching new ...

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 ...

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. ...

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 ...

Browse by category