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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Saturday, December 11, 2021

How Difficult is it to Change my Will after it is Finalized?

You might decide sometime after making a will that you want to change some of the terms of the document. Perhaps one of the beneficiaries is now deceased, or you no longer own an item you gave away in the will. There can be many reasons for wanting to modify your will.

You do not necessarily have to rip up the will and toss it in the fireplace. A California estate planning attorney could walk you through the process of changing the terms of your will. Let's address the question of: How difficult is it to change my will after it is finalized?

How Do Codicils Amend Wills?

Rather than destroying your existing will, you could make the changes you want with a codicil instead of drafting an entirely new will document. You would include the new terms in the codicil, explaining how those terms are to be used in place of specific ones in the original will.

For example, in your original will, you might have left your Lexus sedan to your nephew. During the intervening years since you made the will, you might no longer have that Lexus. Let's say that you replaced the Lexus sedan with a Mercedes SUV. Rather than having to make an entirely new will, you could instead draft a codicil that explains that instead of receiving the Lexus sedan, which you no longer own, your nephew is to receive the Mercedes SUV.

A codicil amends a will, but only the specific terms contained within the codicil document. Whatever does not get changed by the codicil remains in effect.

The codicil must meet the execution requirements of the California Probate Code. The probate code requires the same execution requirements for a codicil as it does for a will.

Why Revoke Your Old Will and Write a New One?

Over time, circumstances might have changed so much that it would be simpler to do away with the old will entirely and write a new one. Your old will might have contained guardianship terms and other details that applied when your children were young. Now that they are grown, out of college, and starting families of their own, many of those issues are irrelevant.

In this situation, the most practical way to update is likely to revoke the old will and make a new one. The new will should specifically revoke the old will and identify that will by the date on which you had signed it. Your new will should also state that it revokes that and all previous wills.

Can You Modify, Revoke, or Write a Will at Any Time?

Sort of. If you want to go to the time and trouble of changing your will every week for the rest of your life, the law will not prevent you from doing that. You must, however, have legal capacity whenever you sign any legal document, including a will or codicil. If a court has found you to be incapacitated, you cannot change your will until such time as you regain capacity.

Can I Just Hand Write My Changes on the Will?

No, you cannot update a will by making handwritten changes or crossing out portions. This law is for your protection. If we did not have this rule, anyone could change your will to whatever they wanted it to be.

A California estate planning attorney can guide you through the process of creating or updating your will, living trust, and other estate planning documents. Contact our office today for a free consultation.


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