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Legal How-To: Revising Your Will

Are you unsure about how to revise your will? Don't worry, you're not alone.

The exact requirements to revise a will vary state-by-state and can be tough to grasp. As a general rule of thumb, check your state's laws before you attempt to amend or revise your will.

Here's a general overview of the dos and don'ts on how to revise your will:

  • Handwritten changes on the will itself. This sounds simple, but it's not the recommended way to make changes to your will. Unfortunately, the simple act of crossing out and rewriting parts of a will can often lead to problems. For example, you can't disinherit someone just by crossing out a name. Even if the handwritten changes are done by the will preparer or signed and dated, it's possible that a court won't consider them to be valid. To play it safe, it's wise to avoid making handwritten changes on the will itself.
  • Codicils. A codicil is a document that attempts to revise provisions in an existing will. You can use a codicil to amend or add to your will. Keep in mind, however, that codicils can take as much work as writing a new will: They must be signed, dated and witnessed just like a regular will. Codicils also aren't ideal because they can create confusion, get lost, and are sometimes even used to challenge wills.
  • Revoking an old will and drafting a new one. The least complicated way to revise a will by simply making a new one. First, you need to revoke your old will by writing a statement that previous wills and codicils are revoked. Better yet, you can physically destroy the old ones to prevent confusion or challenges to your new will.

Need More Help?

As you can see, revising a will can be tricky and requires close attention to your state's rules. To figure out what option is best for you in your jurisdiction, it might be most useful to consult with an experienced local wills attorney.

Another option is to sign up for a personal legal plan, some of which offer basic will-drafting and reviewing services. Plans offered by LegalStreet, for example, include an annual will review and updates, along with unlimited access to on-call local attorneys who can help with many other legal issues. With plans starting at less than $13 per month, LegalStreet can be an affordable way to get some legal peace of mind when it comes to revising your will.

Disclosure: LegalStreet and FindLaw.com are owned by the same company.

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