Is it ever too early to create a Will? The short answer is NO. Better to create a Will too early than too late. A properly constructed Will can serve you for many years before you need to update or revise it. But if circumstances arise that necessitate changing your Will, it does not have to be difficult. So, how do you change your Will?
Why Change your Will?
Your Will should be amended or changed anytime a major life event occurs or there is a significant change in financial circumstances. Typical such circumstances could include:
- You got married
- You got divorced
- You had a child
- You inherited money yourself
- Your business took off and is wildly successful
If you already had a Will in place, then these types of events or change in circumstances should trigger consideration to update your Will. In fact, the reasons for changing your Will greatly mirror the reasons for creating it in the first place. On a side note, we generated a list of the twenty-five top reasons for needing a Will which you can review here.
Now you can write the Will and structure it so as to minimize the need to frequently modify it. For instance, you can use a general description regarding your bequests such as:
“I give the balance of my entire estate, real and personal, to my descendants who survive me, per stirpes.”
This would leave your estate to your children in equal shares. If you had one child at the time you wrote the Will and another came along, the clause as written is still sufficient to meet your desires, and modifying the Will would not be necessary.
How to Change Your Will
What if your Will specifically bequeathed (gave) the family grandfather clock in your possession to brother? But for some reason, you now want to leave it to your cousin. While the grandfather clock is a specific bequest of tangible property, changing to whom it is to be given does not require rewriting the Will. Instead, you can use a codicil to modify the Will.
A will may be changed at any time prior to death as long as the person is of sound mind (competent). These types of minor changes or alterations can be made using a document called a “codicil”. Basically a codicil is an errata or change sheet. The key is that it must be executed with the same formalities in which the Will was formalized. So the codicil must also be witnessed by two people – the same as the Will. However, it does not have to be the same two witnesses. Once the codicil is formalized, it should be stored with the Will and the two (or more) documents read together as if they are one.
But, what if the changes are more substantive? Perhaps you want to change your entire distribution pattern for your assets. Or maybe you want to disinherit an individual or add a significant bequest to charity. In that case, while a codicil might work it is not the best choice. It is far better to rewrite your entire Will and have it replace the existing document. In that case, the Will usually states that it revokes any prior Wills and Codicils and declare this document to be the individual's last Will and testament.
Changing your Will should not be difficult. On the other hand, you do not want to do it haphazardly. It is always a good idea to use an experienced attorney to assist you to make sure that you achieve your desired result. If you are ready to safeguard your assets and take care of your loved ones, start by calling our office at (301)315-0811 to schedule an appointment!