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When Should You Change a Will?

Find out when to change a Will and how to do it correctly so the wrong version can’t be used after your death.

By
Laura Adams, MBA,
June 20, 2012

When Should You Change a Will?

I received this question as a follow up to a Money Girl newsletter about creating a Last Will:

How often should you edit or rewrite your Will? And if you make changes, how do you ensure that the old version won’t be used if you pass away?

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ANSWER:

After you create a Will, it’s easy to tuck it away and forget about it. But having a Will with outdated information defeats the purpose of having one.

How to Change a Will

There are 2 ways to change a Will. You can:

  • create a codicil

  • create a brand new Will

A codicil is a document that amends an executed Will. It can add small provisions or completely revoke a majority of the original document. The original Will remains unchanged except for what the codicil addresses.

Creating a codicil is a good option if you have relatively minor changes to make, like updating the name of your personal representative or adding a bequest.

On the other hand, a new Will revokes any previous Wills and codicils completely and supersedes them. If you have many changes to make or already have one or more codicils, it’s better to create a new Will.

Having one consolidated Will can avoid a chain of potentially inconsistent documents that could create confusion or difficulty in their legal interpretation.

When To Change a Will

Ideally, you should review your Will every year. But at the very least, here are 6 life events that should trigger you to consider whether a revision is necessary:

  1. You get married or divorced. If your marital status has changed since you last signed a Will, be sure to discuss what changes are needed with an attorney. An ex-spouse could potentially contest the document.

  2. You have new family members. If you have a child or adopt one, make sure your Will gives them the correct share of your estate.

  3. You have deceased family members. If your spouse or anyone named in your Will dies, always review it to ensure that your estate will be distributed correctly.

  4. You have a change of heart. If you created a Will a long time ago, your feelings and priorities may have changed. Perhaps you’d rather give that heirloom diamond ring to your niece instead of your sister. Or perhaps you’ve reunited with a long-lost relative who you want to include.

  5. Your net worth increases. If you gain a significant amount of wealth, that may change how you want to distribute your assets. Consult with an attorney about revising your Will and creating a trust to reduce the taxes owed on your estate after your death.

  6. You relocate to a different state. Since estate rules and taxes vary by state, be sure to review your Will when you move out of state.

Your Will is an important document that affects how your loved ones will remember you after you’re gone. One of the best gifts you can give them is to make sure that all your legal and financial paperwork is in order.

So remember to review your Will on a regular basis and change it when needed.

Other Articles and Resources You Might Like:
Why You Need to Make a Will

4 Legal Documents You Should Have—Get Them Free!
Wills and Estate Planning Legal Documents and Forms
25+ Best Personal Finance and Productivity Tools
What Happens to Debt When You Die?

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Last will photo from Shutterstock

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