Changing Your Will
Many people opt to change their wills when their financial situation changes, or when they have children or grandchildren. Depending on the type of change you are making, you can either add to your existing document or write a new one. The following steps will help you decide what to do:
Should you change your will?
Every now and then, it’s a good idea to take the time to review your will to ensure it still says what you would like it to. You should definitely review the document if:
- Someone you have named in your will passes on
- You have children or grandchildren to now consider
- You get married (note: marriage might revoke your will so make sure to double check this)
- You get a divorce
You shouldn’t alter the original will document. If you want to make a significant number of changes, it may be better to create a new one. If you do make a new will, you can revoke the old one by simply destroying it.
Using a codicil document will allow you to make small changes to your will – such as changing executors or adding a legacy.
Writing a New Will
Making a new will document is typically the best option if you want to make relatively big changes.
The process is just like writing your will for the first time, but there are a few extra things you need to make sure of:
- Ensure the new will clearly states that it revokes any older wills and/or codicils.
- If you possess assets internationally and have a corresponding will, ensure the new one does not revoke that other will.
- Destroy the old original will and any of its copies – either by tearing it up, shredding or burning it. Otherwise, duplicates could be found and it may not be clear which your executor should follow.
- Tell your executor where the new will document is so they can find it when the time arises.
Revising your will after the death of a loved one
If someone close to you passes on, it may change your own plans for the future. It might affect what you include in your will so it’s crucial to take some time to think about this.
Changing your will
You may want to consider changing up your will document if:
- You have recently inherited something and want to specify who it should be passed down to in the event of your passing.
- You are thinking about your own funeral – suggesting how you want it to be arranged or ensuring there is easy access to money for the proceedings.
- Someone who has recently passed on was named as an executor, beneficiary or guardian. You may want to change who will now receive that share of your estate, or you might need to appoint a different executor or guardian if you have not already selected substitutes.
What if I forgot to change my Will after my divorce?
If you get divorced and you had a Will, it’s best to revoke the old one and then draft a new one, but if circumstances mean that you were unable to do that, there are a few things that can happen.
In most states, any inheritance left to your former spouse in a Will that was made before you got legally divorced are automatically revoked and the rest of the Will is not affected. If you’re still in the divorce process, then the gifts are still valid. Also, not every state has the same laws (and they can change), so you shouldn’t depend on them. In some states, gifts to relatives of your former spouse are also revoked by divorce. This is another great reason to have alternative beneficiaries in your Will as well; if you die and state law revokes the gift to your spouse, another person can inherit it.
Can my Will be challenged?
All Wills can be challenged as there are no laws or rules to prevent someone at least attempting to invalidate or change them.
The primary question to ask yourself is – ‘can it be challenged easily?’ For example, if you exclude someone who might have had good reason to think that they would be included in your Will (say an estranged son or daughter), then there is a good chance they could challenge it.
A good way to preempt this is to write a letter to your executors, which explains why said person was excluded from the Will.
It would also be a good idea to store this letter with your will.
Can heirs to my Will be witnesses when I am writing it?
In short, the answer is no. Heirs (the beneficiaries who stand to inherit) to your last Will and Testaments can not be a witness to you signing it, and neither can a spouse or civil partner.