Wills aren't one-and-done deals. In fact, it's common for people to update their wills more than once. After all, a life event — or even a change of mind — can alter who you want to name as beneficiaries. However, we usually recommend reviewing your will every ten years. Below are four circumstances that require you to act promptly and update your will.
Revisions vs. Codicils
First, a clarification. You may be familiar with the term "codicil." This is a legal document that's treated as a supplement to an existing will and may suffice if you're making a minor change. If your attorney adds a codicil, you don't have to alter the original will, and when your will is subjected to probate, so is the codicil.
Codicils, however, are less common today, now that it's easy to replace a will by simply editing a digital file. And the existence of codicils can create confusion relating to other parts of the will. It's often more convenient for everyone in the family to rely on a single document — a revised will.
Either way, your codicil or revised will must be handled with the same legal formalities (including signature witnesses) as the original will. (See the sidebar, "What to Include In a Codicil.") Therefore, it's best to have any will documents prepared by a qualified attorney.
When to Take Action
What situations may trigger a need for an update of a will through a codicil or revision? These are generally the most common:
Reasons specific to you may also indicate a will revision — for example, if you become estranged from a family member or a beneficiary acquires significant wealth and you don't feel he or she needs additional assets from you. But be sure to discuss such issues with your estate planning advisors.
Above and Beyond Your Will
Many people find they require more than a will (even a revised one) to achieve their estate objectives. For example, you may want to name beneficiaries to assets that pass outside your will (such as retirement accounts) or set up one or more trusts to avoid probate and help minimize current taxes. Contact us to discuss your estate options.
What to Include in a Codicil
If you choose to change your will with a codicil, it must have identifying information. This includes:
Your full legal name,Address,Date of the codicil, andA statement indicating that you're of sound mind and not being coerced by anyone.
Your attorney will explain what parts of the will are affected. Use full legal names when referring to beneficiaries, specify dollar amounts or percentages, and describe any property in detail.
Also, the codicil should state that its provisions supersede what you've written in your will and that all parts of the will not affected by the codicil remain in effect. You'll need to sign the codicil and have it witnessed according to state law. Finally, as with all estate documents, store it in a secure location with your original will.
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.
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