How to Remove a Name from a Last Will and Testament

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How to Remove a Name from a Last Will and Testament

By Christine Funk, J.D.

There are many reasons someone may wish to change their last will and testament. Sometimes there is a falling out among family members. Other times, a beneficiary or guardian develops an issue with chemical dependency or mental illness, making the earlier decision to leave them property or in charge of the children seems like less than a good idea.

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Sometimes, a person provides a beneficiary a large sum of money while still alive, making it less fair to leave them the same amount of money as their siblings. Finally, during and after a divorce, a person may wish to change their will. Whatever the reason, if you wish to change names in your last will and testament, there are two different ways to accomplish this.

Amending or Preparing a Will

If you simply want to change the amount left to a single person or remove someone, it may be appropriate to file an amendment, called a codicil. You must draft it in the same way you would with a will. Follow your state's requirements for writing, witnesses, notarization, and any other conditions your state imposes.

In the codicil, you simply need to revise the paragraph that deals with the person of issue. For example, if your will currently leaves 50 percent of the estate to your son John and the remainder to your daughter Jill, but you want to reduce John's share by $300,000 because you just gave John a $300,000 gift, draft a codicil that references the paragraph in your original document, says you are choosing to omit or revise said paragraph, and makes the new provision.

If you intend to disinherit someone altogether, there are specific rules you must follow. Some states do not permit the complete disinheritance of a spouse simply through a will or codicil. Some states require specific language if one wishes to completely disinherit a child. Still, other jurisdictions require leaving at least a nominal sum, such as $20, to a child as their final share.

Depending on the significance and number of changes you plan to make, it may be best to draft a new document. This is particularly true if you intend to change more than one beneficiary, if guardianship designees are substantially different, or if you plan to leave the bulk of the estate to someone other than those identified in the current will. If you are writing a new one, it is important to locate and destroy all copies of the old one. This prevents someone from filing the old will in probate court.

Will Changes During or After a Divorce

In many states, once a couple divorces, the former spouse does not inherit, even if the will says they should. Instead, the law treats the portions of the document leaving property to the spouse as if they had predeceased the person who wrote it. If your intention remains that your former spouse inherit, it is a good idea to rewrite it indicating your intentions.

Some states institute a waiting period of six months to one year before a couple can legally divorce. During this time, the couple is still married. It is also helpful to change your will in this situation if you do not wish your spouse to inherit during the waiting period.

If you need to remove a name from your will, consider your options. You can either choose to revoke it altogether, or simply amend it. Regardless, ensure that you always have an up to date document outlining your wishes.

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