There are many life events that should trigger you to consider your estate plan, including whether your will should be updated:
1. The birth or death of a Beneficiary, Estate Trustee or Guardian;
2. Purchase or sale of major asset(s);
3. Moving to another jurisdiction;
4. Your marriage or divorce or that of a loved one; and
These are just a few scenarios and this list is not exhaustive. As stated in an earlier article, another way to determine whether your estate plan should be updated is to review your estate inventory from time to time which will help you to easily see whether a life change has occurred since it was last updated. You will be able to see what is no longer true by looking at it. Depending on the changes in your life that become apparent by this review, you can contact your lawyer to discuss whether these changes, along with your current wishes and intentions, warrant an actual update to your estate plan.
So how does one go about changing a will once the decision to do so is made?
A codicil is a written change or amendment to a will. It must be executed with the same formality as an original will, including having two independent witnesses (i.e. that is not beneficiaries) present where the will is not wholly in the testator`s (will maker`s) handwriting.
I do not prepare codicil`s in my practice since we are in the technological age and word processing has made it easy enough to pull up the text of an original will as a whole, incorporate the necessary changes and reprint the new will for formal execution. Another advantage of preparing an entirely new will is that those who read the Last Will will not be privy to previous versions of the Will, such as the case where a testator has changed their mind against giving a gift to a beneficiary. There are also a number of errors that are avoided by not using codicils to update a will including:
1. avoidance of transcription errors such as referring to the wrong paragraph numbers or accidentally revoking more of the will than intended;
2. not ensuring that the names are spelled correctly from will to codicil;
3. incorrectly setting out the date of the will in the text of the codicil (i.e. typists often type the current year because they are so used to it, instead of the year of the will they are changing).
To review or update your will, estate plan or estate inventory, please contact Andrea P. Kelly.
Andrea Kelly, Lawyer, has extensive experience in wills, trusts, powers of attorney and estate administration matters. She provides clients with a high standard of timely professionalism and expertise, incorporating a very thorough fact finding process. This is quite often enlightening for her clients and facilitates individually tailored services. If you would like to know more, feel free to use the easy contact form or read Andrea’s bio.