Once you have a will in place, your circumstances and the law can both change. It can be necessary and beneficial to periodically revisit your will to assess whether you need to make any changes.
New or Changed Relationships
Significant life changes, such as getting married or divorced, and having children, are common reasons why people change their wills. You also may want to change your will when your relationship with a previous beneficiary has deteriorated, and it no longer makes sense to include that person in your will. Many state laws will ignore the terms of an outdated will that has not been updated to replace an ex-spouse with a current spouse as a beneficiary. The best way to avoid having your property held up by probate delays and challenges is to update revisit and update your will periodically.
Include New Assets
Most wills include a "residuary clause" that names the beneficiaries who will receive all money and property you acquire after executing the will. If you make a large purchase, such as a new home, you may want to name new beneficiaries for this specific asset or exclude the specific asset from the residuary clause.
Update an Existing Will with a Codicil
Whenever you make a change to an existing will, you do so by creating a "codicil." A codicil is a separate document that adds to, or amends, the terms of your original will. Every state requires certain legal formalities when creating an enforceable will, and codicils are usually subject to those same formalities.
Revoke Your Will and Create a New One
When the changes you need to make to a will are substantial, it can make sense to execute a new will instead of simply amending an existing will with a codicil. You can cancel your original will and execute a new one, clearly stating in your new will your intention to revoke all prior wills.
A Trusts and Estates Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding changes made to wills is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a trusts and estates lawyer.