A will can be changed anytime before a testatorís death. Simple additions or changes to a will can be made by a properly executed codicil. A codicil is a legal document that must be executed in accordance with the same formalities as a will. See
wills and trusts.A codicil is read together with the will and any other codicils to determine the testatorís final intent. If you make a codicil, attach it to your will and make sure both documents are kept together.
Software to Make a New Will
To create and print a new will and other estate planning documents, one option is to use
estate planning software. However, to ensure you avoid mistakes in either drafting or executing your new will, have your estate planning documents reviewed by an attorney. An estate planning lawyer can also help you execute your new will or codicil in a manner that complies with state law requirements.
How to Change a Revocable Living Trust
The procedure for making changes to a revocable living trust document is to draft an amendment, sign it and have it notarized. You must comply with the same execution formalities for an amendment as executing the original trust. An alternative to using an amendment is to restate the entire revocable living trust in a
trust restatement form which includes the changes you wish to make.If you want to change your estate planning documents to add or remove a beneficiary, you may also want to review our page on how to change a trust beneficiary.
Living trusts often include complex estate tax provisions. If you revise your revocable living trust document without consulting a lawyer, you may unintentionally change these carefully drafted provisions. Before executing an amendment to your living trust, consult an estate planning attorney. See finding an attorney.
Before Changing Your Will
If you are considering making a codicil or executing a new will, read our article called change my will for important tips on how to avoid mistakes.
Property Left in Your Will That You No Longer Own
Ademption is an estate planning term used to describe a situation when specific property is bequeathed in a will but the property is no longer in the testatorís estate at death. Ademption only applies to bequests of specific items of property. For example, my entire rare coin collection is a specific bequest. If the rare coin collection is no longer in the probate estate at the time of death, the bequest fails and the beneficiary will not receive the property.
Reasons to Make a Codicil or Amendment
The following are reasons to make a codicil to your will or amendment to your living trust:
1. Marriage, divorce, separation or domestic partnership
2. Birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
3. To change beneficiaries or disinherit an heir
4. Moving to a new state
5. The death of a beneficiary or heir
6. To change executors or trustees
7. To reduce an inheritance after making a loan or gift of property to an heir
8. Inheriting or acquiring new property or the value of the estate has changed significantly
9. The testator has sold or gifted property bequeathed or transferred in the will or trust
10. Changes in estate, gift or generation skipping transfer tax laws and regulations
11. Changes in state laws that impact your estate plan, and
12. To reflect a newly formed trust or other estate planning document.
How to Make a Codicil to a Will
The procedure for making additions, subtractions or revisions to your will is to make a codicil. A codicil must be typed, signed, dated, and witnessed in accordance with the same formalities required for making a will. If you fail to follow all required formalities for making a codicil, including having it properly witnessed, the changes you intend to make will not be effective and you are increasing the likelihood of a will contest, litigation or your will being declared invalid. See fatals errors in execution.A common mistake people make is trying to change to their wills without consulting an attorney. Changing a will may seem like a very simple matter, but it is not. Attempting to save a few hundred dollars by revising your will without a lawyer can lead to consequences that cost thousands or even millions of dollars. See
will and trust disputes.If you want to make extensive or lengthy changes to your will, it is better to revoke your old will and make an entirely new will. Also, if you already made one or two codicils to your will and are planning on making another codicil, it is usually better to revoke the old will and make a new will that incorporates all your changes in one document. Related:
Codicil Do's and Don'ts
Do remember to review your will, living trust, and other estate planning documents every few years, as well as when you experience major life changes. Use our
Estate Plan Checkup Form to start this process. If you believe updates or changes are necessary, consult a lawyer.
Do not try to revise your will, living trust or power of attorney by making handwritten notes or striking out certain language. Never write on any executed estate planning document without the advice of a lawyer.
How to Revoke a Will
The two most common ways to revoke a will are:
Physically destroying all originals and copies of the will, such as by burning or shredding; and
Making a new will and including language in it that you revoke all prior wills.
Memorial Preferences or Last Wishes Planner
If you recently prepared your memorial preferences or last wishes, you do not need to amend your will or living trust to include them. Keep your memorial preferences or last wishes document in the same place you keep your will and other estate planning documents. If you have provisions in your will or living trust that are in conflict with or contradict your memorial preferences or last wishes document, consult an estate planning attorney to determine whether you should make a codicil or amendment to your will or living trust.