The following is a list of the most common reasons you may want to change your will or revise your estate plan:1. Disinheriting an heir, such as an adult child, ex-spouse, grandchild, sibling or parent;
2. Making a charitable gift to a non-profit organization, university, hospital or other institution, see charitable giving;3. Changing a basic will to a pour-over will after making a living trust, see types of wills;4. Updating a will after the birth or adoption of a child or grandchild;5. Updating a will after marriage, domestic partnership, separation or divorce;
6. Updating a will after moving to another state;
7. Revising a will to change your executor, trustee or child guardian;
8. Revising a will to add a pet trust or change the name of the pet guardian; and
9. Updating a will to reflect a change in financial situation, such as the sale of property that was part of a specific bequest, or adding specific bequests of newly acquired property.
Cutting a Child Out of Your Will
If you are planning to cut a child or grandchild out of your will, make sure you have taken a reasonable amount of time to consider your decision. Are you reacting out of hurt or anger over something that is likely to seem trivial a few months from now? Have you evaluated the situation from their perspective? Is the change one you will still be comfortable with five years from now?
It is extremely common for parents and grandparents to change their estate plans to disinherit children or grandchildren over perceived slights, shortcomings, or disappointments. Too often, the testator who makes a new will to disinherit a relative ultimately ends up going through the expensive process of changing his will again to reverse the disinheritance after a change of heart.
How to Change Your Will
1. Review a copy of your current will. If you have a living trust or another type of trust, review the trust agreement along with the will. Write a list of all changes you wish to make. If you have questions, write a list of questions. If you made a self-proving will or had the witnesses complete a self-proving affidavit, it is important to ensure the same steps are followed when executing a codicil to the will or making a new will.
2. Make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to review proposed changes to your will and how they might impact your overall estate plan. Ask the attorney whether other updates should be made to your estate plan based on changes in state law since the date you executed your existing will or trust. Obtain a written fee estimate. See finding an attorney.
3. If you are unable to pay a lawyer, you still have options to have your codicil or new will drafted. Contact your local legal aid office to see if you qualify for assistance. Review your employee benefits package to determine if you have a prepaid legal services plan that pays for you to consult an attorney. You can also contact a self help legal services provider online or use professionally prepared estate planning forms. Do not attempt to revise your will without an attorney. Codicils and amendments must be executed in accordance with the same formalities as a will. It is extremely common for people to make errors that invalidate the will or result in an expensive will contest. See fatal errors in execution. Unfortunately, these errors are usually not discovered until the testator has died, meaning the testator's last wishes often are not honored.
If You Want To Change Your Will Now
If you are in a hurry to change your will or living trust, whether to disinherit an heir or make an important change to your last wishes, using estate planning software is one way to change your will quickly. If you need to make the changes today, you can download this type of software. Always consult a licensed attorney before executing any estate planning documents. Also, make sure the estate planning software you use is designed for use in the state of your permanent residence or domicile.
Before You Change Your Will
While you can change your will any time, the process of making a codicil or executing a new will does not lend itself to frequent revisions. You should review your will every year or two to make sure it is still current. However, you should only need to amend or replace your will once every five or ten years, unless you experience important life events such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a loved one or a change in financial status.
When you make codicils and amendments to estate planning documents, you must invest several hours to review your existing estate plan and consider the revisions you plan to make. You also need to go through the appropriate will execution formalities, such as signing the will in front of witnesses and a notary, depending on state laws. You may need to pay an estate planning attorney to draft the codicil or new will and advise on how the proposed changes may impact your overall estate plan. In addition to attorneys’ fees, there are other costs associated with amending your will, such as notary fees and the cost of revising related documents.
Changing Your Executor or Trustee
If you are changing your will to remove someone you previously designated as your executor, trustee, child guardian or pet guardian, make sure you carefully consider the change first. If your reasons are the result of a disagreement with a friend or relative, think about whether your feelings are likely to be resolved in the future. It is not a good idea to make hasty decisions about changing your will. It is difficult to find an individual qualified to administer your estate, manage trust funds, or agree to care for your child or pets. Take time to determine if you have a good replacement before removing a designated executor, trustee or guardian from your will.