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How Do You Modify a Will?

10/25/2016 | Articles & Alerts

Setting up a comprehensive estate plan is time-consuming and can be expensive. The more complex your assets are and the greater the eventualities you seek to control with the estate plan, the more sophisticated the requirements of your plan will be.

Everyone is urged to do this as soon as practicable, as that allows better allocation of assets and longer time frames for investments to grow to maturity. A well-designed plan can also provide great peace of mind.

The corollary to doing everything correctly in an estate plan is that means it will be in place for years and possibly decades. In addition to death and taxes, another certainty with regards to the passage of time is change. We can design the best, most comprehensive estate plan when we are in our 40s, but who knows if it will still serve our needs when we are in our 60s or 70s?

A codicil can be used to update a section of a will

This means some parts of your estate plan are likely to need to be adjusted as time goes by. For instance, modifications to a will can be achieved by use of a Codicil. A codicil is a “testamentary writing” that changes or alters some parts of a will.

A codicil typically deals with some aspect of the original will. Unlike a new will, it does not revoke the older will but merely modifies a part or section. It often is used when there has been some change, such as the marriage of a child or the birth of a grandchild, where the grantor of the will wishes to include that party within the disposition of their property.

It may also be used to change some property included within the original will when that property no longer is part of the estate, such as would occur when an asset is sold and used to purchase other property or different assets.

A codicil is not interpreted to alter any other parts of the will other than those that logically follow from the addition of the codicil. It can also be used to repair defects in the will, and for a codicil to be effective and valid, it must be executed in the same manner as the underlying will.

An important rule

While the most important rule of estate planning is to have one, the second most important rule is likely to be ensuring that you adequately maintain your estate plan, making changes when necessary or when underlying law changes or assets structure changes, as when a relevant tax law is amended or you obtain new assets.

In addition to making necessary changes to a will, you should also make certain your trusts are regularly updated, and that underperforming assets are removed or that beneficiaries of the trust reflect your current wishes.

You may wish to change a gift to a child, as it may need to be altered should they suffer substance abuse issues or become involved in a divorce proceeding that could result in some payments going to a former spouse.

Schedule meetings

Time has a way of getting away from most people, so scheduling regular estate planning update meetings with your attorneys can be an easy way in which to ensure your estate plan will meet all of your needs, no matter how long it will be in place.