What You Should Know About Changing Your Will

Posted over 3 years ago. Applies to New York, 1 helpful vote

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Making Changes To A Will Is Common

It's not uncommon to have second thoughts about a bequest one makes in one's will. Or sometimes a person who was listed as a beneficiary of certain assets has died, and one wants to substitute a different person or charity as a legatee. When these things happen, it's time to start thinking about changing your will.

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How Does One Change His Or Her Will?

There are two ways to change a will. One is to make up a new will. A will usually recites that it specifically revokes any prior wills. But one can also execute what is called a "codicil." A codicil is an amendment to an existing will. It does not revoke the prior will. Instead, it leaves the existing will intact except for the particular provisions that it changes.

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Is A Codicil The Easy Way To Go?

In my view, a codicil is never a good idea. There is no advantage to a codicil and there are many disadvantages. A codicil must be executed with the same formalities as a regular will. In other words, it must be signed at the end by the testator in front of at least two witnesses. When a codicil is executed, it essentially divides the will into two separate documents.

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What's So Bad About A Codicil?

Any lawyer can tell you that it is not at all uncommon for family members of a decedent to have trouble finding an original will. If there is a will and a codicil, that means that there are now two (or more, if there is more than one codicile) separate documents that family members must locate. And if the codicil disappears, but the original will is found, nobody will be the wiser. The existence of the codicil may not be known to anybody. Or it may be that just the codicil is located, but not the original will.

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Conclusion

If you want to change your will, by all means, go ahead and have it changed. But my strong advice is to execute a new will that specifically revokes any prior wills. And make sure that the old will is destroyed.

Additional Resources

Law Offices of Michael S. Haber

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