When circumstances change in your life, you should update your will. These include the birth/adoption of a new child/grandchild, divorce/marriage, new laws, purchase/sale of assets, a change of mind about a beneficiary and death in the family.
This guide discusses how you can make these changes:
Write a new will
If your existing estate plan no longer reflects your intentions, you can write a new one. Ensure you revoke your existing will if you choose this route – including a statement in the new will stating that you revoke the previous will. You may also appropriately destroy existing wills to avoid confusion and reduce the chances of will contests.
Use a codicil
If you want to make a minor change to your will, you can amend it with a codicil. This separate legal document will contain the specific modifications. You can write as many codicils as you want and attach them to your will.
Note that a codicil observes similar requirements as a will to be valid– it must be dated, signed and witnessed. And you should have the required testamentary capacity.
What about assets not included in your will?
Some of your assets can be distributed to beneficiaries without going to probate – they operate outside your will. Examples include assets with beneficiary designations (life insurance policies, annuities and retirement accounts), and property owned by joint tenancy and living trusts, among others.
If you wish to make changes to these assets, you should do so with the forms you used to name the original beneficiaries.
Your estate plan should reflect your current wishes. Consider getting legal help to validate your changes.