Just in case a heated family Christmas makes you reconsider who gets what in your will, here are some things you should know about changing or revoking your will, writes estate planning lawyer TERRY MORGAN.
Why should I change my will?
You should review your will on a regular basis in order to keep it current.
Many people these days make wills, but not all of them realise that it needs to be modified whenever something changes in their life, most often with their finances or relationships.
It is wise to update or revoke your will in light of any new circumstances, that way your family and friends avoid unnecessary problems when your estate is being settled.
When should I change my will?
Other than a simple change of mind, there are many events that may prompt you to change your will. Common reasons for changing a will are:
- Birth or adoption of a child
- Relocation to a new state or country (you should change the will so it conforms to that region’s laws to avoid delays in administrating your estate).
Changes in your financial situation or assets
- Inheritance of a large amount of money or other asset
- Purchase or acquisition of a new home or other asset
- Sale or destruction of an asset that was included in your will.
Changes in your original beneficiaries
- Death of a spouse or other beneficiary
- Relationship with a beneficiary takes a turn for the worse
- Desire to include new beneficiaries
In the event of a divorce, the law automatically revokes any provisions in your will that favour your ex-spouse. Regardless, you still need to update your will because if you do not redirect the property originally bequeathed to your ex-spouse to another beneficiary, then that property will either fall into the residuary clause, or if there is none, it will pass to your intestate heirs.
How can I change my will?
You can change your will in one of two ways: you can revoke your current will and write a new one, or you can amend your existing will by creating a codicil.
A codicil is a formal supplement to your will and must conform to the same requirements for executing a will (must be written and signed by you and your witnesses).
TIP: If you execute a codicil to your will, make sure that you store it with your will. If the changes in your codicil are extensive, you should consider revoking the old will and starting over with a new one. This will avoid any confusion when it is offered for probate and will ensure that you don’t make any mistakes.
How do I revoke my Will?
If you revoke your will, it is as if you never created it. You can revoke your will by a later writing (e.g. a new will or codicil that is totally inconsistent with your previous will, or that includes a statement that you intend to revoke your previous will) or by physically destroying it (burning, cancelling, tearing, or obliterating it).
If you physically destroy your will, make sure you destroy the entire will; otherwise you risk an ineffective revocation. For example, if you want to write “void” on your will, write it across the face of every page, not just the first page.