• David Manes

How to make changes to your will.

Sometimes events in life can lead you to want to make changes to your will. Perhaps your spouse died and you got remarried. You probably would want to write your new spouse into your will. Maybe you had a bitter falling out with a friend and you wish to remove them from your will. In order to change your will there are generally two options: 1) create a codicil to your will or 2) destroy your old will and create a new one. Let’s examine both ways:

Codicil

A codicil is a document that amends your will, but does not replace it. For example, a codicil may read something like this:

  1. I leave my 2010 red corvette to my brother John.

  2. I revoke my gift of my authentic samurai sword to my son Anakin and instead leave the samurai sword to my cousin Luke.

  3. In all other respects I reaffirm my will dated January 25, 1997.

This codicil covers new property, the corvette, and then changes the disposition of old property, the samurai sword. Once it is drafted you must ensure it is valid.

How to make your codicil valid

In order for the codicil to be valid it must meet all the requirements that the will itself would have to meet according to your state law. So, in Pennsylvania it would require the testator to be 18, a signature at its logical end, and either the disposal of property, nominating of a personal representative or the revocation of another will. In Pennsylvania two attesting witnesses are not required, but it is suggested because many states do require it and it never hurts to add more credibility to the will making process.

Destroy your will and create a new one

If you wish to make wholesale changes to your will it may be more efficient to just destroy your old will and create a new one rather than creating a codicil. Sometimes a codicil can confuse the reading of the original will if it conflicts with it in certain ways. If you make a new will you should follow these steps:

  1. Destroy the old will.

  2. The testator (person whose will it is) should perform this act herself. The destruction may not be valid if another person destroys it unless it was at the testator’s direction, in her presence and in the presence of two witnesses.

  3. Additionally, the original will and all copies of it should be destroyed to ensure there is no confusion over the old will’s survival

  4. Create a new will and state within the new will that all previous wills are revoked.

  5. The new will then takes over for the old one and the language of revocation will help to clear up any confusion if the old will is not properly destroyed.

Conclusion

If you wish to make changes to your will you can either create a codicil or destroy the old will and create a new one. If you create a codicil make sure you do so with the same formalities with which you created the will. If you wish to make a new will be sure to destroy all copies of your old will and then state in your new will that the old one is revoked.

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