How to Amend a Last Will & Testament

By A.L. Kennedy

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.

How to Amend Your Last Will and Testament

Step 1

Decide what changes need to be made. Some changes, such as adding a child or changing the name of your spouse, are relatively simple. Others, such as changing what assets you would like to leave to whom, are more complex. Clarifying what changes you need to make will help you decide which method of changing your will is right for you, according to the American Bar Association.

Step 2

Choose a method for amending your will. If you wish to make a small change, you may want to use a codicil, which is an amendment attached to your original will. If you wish to make large changes, however, you may need to write a new will. It is wise to consult an attorney when deciding what changes to make and how best to make them, according to FindLaw.

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Step 3

Write down your desired changes. If you are using a codicil, you can simply write the changes on a new sheet of paper. Note on this paper that it is a codicil to your last will and testament, and include the day, month and year you are making the change. If you decide to rewrite your will, use the same format as the original will, and remember to include the day, month and year you are writing the new will.

Step 4

Sign and have witnessed your new will or codicil. Both a will and codicil must be signed by the testator, or person making the will, and by at least two witnesses. Some states have specific additional requirements, such as notarization, so check with an attorney or your state's laws regarding wills before you have your will signed and witnessed.

Step 5

Attach your codicil to your original will, and file your original will in a secure location. If you have more than one copy of your original will, attach a copy of the codicil to each copy of the will. If you have written a new will, gather up all the copies of your original will, along with any codicils, and destroy them. Be sure your will is properly signed, witnessed and notarized if necessary before you destroy any previous copies, recommends FindLaw.

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How Do I Change a Last Will & Testament?
 

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Is a Handwritten Change on a Will Legal?

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.

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