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Can a Will be changed after death?

Rochester, NY |

Once a parent passes away can the Will be changed to exclude children of a previous marriage in order to keep them from inheriting anything?

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Attorney answers 7




A Will can not be changed after the person's death.

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A will is operative upon the death of the testator and its admission to probate. Thus, its terms are final and cannot be amended or changed. If, however, there is an ambiguity with respect to the language used in the will and it is unclear who benefits under it, then the executor can petition the probate court to interpret the will and provide guidance to the executor as to how to apply it. But, outright disinheriting provided beneficiaries, that cannot be done.

This response contemplates only the laws of Ohio and is not intended to apply to other jurisdictions. None of the information in this response should be used or relied upon as legal advice or legal opinion about specific matters, facts, situations or issues. Viewing it does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and Sherrille D. Akin, the law firm of Isaac, Brant, Ledman & Teetor LLP, or any of its individual attorneys


I am a NY lawyer. This depends on whose will you are speaking about. A decedent's will (the person who passed away) can never be changed after death or incompetence. Living beneficiaries of a decedent are not bound by the terms of the decedent's will. For example, if a Decedent's will left all to the surviving spouse, and then upon the death of the surviving spouse, all to children (including the children of a previous marriage), the surviving spouse can do whatever she or he wants with the money she or he inherits and are not bound by the terms of a decedent's will. Thus, the surviving spouse can make a new will and exclude whomever she or he wants.



What if the Decendent's instructions was to devide the money evently between three family members. Can the surviving spouse still decide to keep all of it.


I believe what you may be asking is if the surviving spouse (step-parent) can change the distribution of assets after your parent dies. Of course your deceased parent's Will cannot be changed after his/her death.

Unfortunately, most people, after they get remarried, start to comingle their assets. For example, if both names were on the house with rights of survivorship, then the house belongs to the surviving spouse, and she/he can do whatever they want with it (including excluding their spouse's kids). If both names were on the bank accounts, the same thing applies. If the surviving spouse was the beneficiary on life insurance, the surviving spouse decides what to do with this money.

In effect, this often allows the surviving spouse to exclude or "disinherit" her/his spouse's kids. This is unfortunate. It is a perfect example why there are special planning needs for "blended families." This can be avoided with proper planning before the death of the parent.

Bob Mannor
Michigan Elder Law Attorney


No. A will cannot be changed after the testator dies. A person may only change his or her will while alive.

This answer does not constitute legal advice and no attorney client relationship has been formed. Before choosing a course of action, it is always advisable to seek the advice of an attorney in your area.


A will cannot be changed by a surviving spouse to exclude children that would have taken by the deceased parent's will. However, barring a clause in the deceased person's will preventing the surviving spouse from disinheriting his kids when she dies, the spouse can do so. By Example - Father has three kids with first wife, named A, B, & C. Father divorces first wife, and marries second wife. Father dies leaving his immediately to AB & C. Second wife cannot prevent that, other than she would have the right to an elective share of one third of the estate if she is not provided for, and there is no prenuptial agreement. However, if father in his will leaves his estate to Second Wife, with the understanding that second wife will leave it to ABC, the Second wife can change her will to disinherit ABC unless there is something in Father's will preventing her from doing so.

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