Here are the Top Reasons to Change Your Last Will

Making Wills Easy – New Summer Series 11

Now that you know the secret to giving your stuff away in your will (in case you missed it, read about it here), how do you change your will?

Changing your will is not the same as making changes “on” your will. If you alter your daughter’s last name on your will, your change could make it invalid. Changes must be properly witnessed and signed to be legal.

If you write on or alter your original will, you can be in trouble. Courts ignore changes on your will unless they are signed in front of two witnesses. Some alterations require court rulings. This is to ensure you were not trying to cancel your will.

If your will was prepared years ago, your witnesses may no longer be alive. You may be better off making a new will. You may need to refresh wills that are more than ten years old. There are many reasons to change your wills. Here are some reasons to consider new wills.

10 Reasons You Need to Make New Wills

1. You divorce, separate or cohabit with a new partner.
2. Children are born or you need new guardians.
3. You now have grandchildren or stepchildren.
4. Persons named in your will become ill, disabled or die.
5. You change executors, beneficiaries, or charities.
6. Your assets have increased and you need tax planning.
7. You start a business, or you start living alone.
8. You move to another province or country.
9. You acquire major assets in another province or country.
10. Your children become adults.

What If You Can’t Find Your Will?

Better make a new will if you can’t find the original. My office does not hold any original wills. That’s my policy. So, if you can’t find your original will, you are better off making a new will. Keep the original will for safekeeping. Treat it like gold.

When Should You Review Your Wills?

Set aside time every 5 years or so, but don’t stop there. You need to examine your original will every time:

• laws change
• you add or remove a person (beneficiary, executor, trustee)
• there’s a change in your relationships (separate, divorce, cohabit)
• your assets change
• you start a business

That way, you can preserve what you earned and not make costly mistakes. Without a will, you will leave your loves ones with complications, costs and conflicts. With a will, you make sure your money goes straight to the people you love.

Say No to Codicils to Amend Wills

Your will must reflect the changes in your life. That’s why wills are on paper and not cut in stone. Lawyers used to make simple changes to wills with codicils. These were inexpensive documents used to make minor changes.

Things have changed now. When Jerry wants to change his executor, he calls his lawyer and says, “How much does it cost to change executors in my will with a codicil?” Answer: many estate lawyers refuse to make codicils.

Jerry’s lawyer should ask why Jerry needs the changes. Jerry says, “Well, my partner and I are thinking of separating.” Jerry’s lawyer should point out that Jerry’s will is ten years old and he likely needs a new will, not a codicil.

Like Wills, Codicils Must Comply with All Legal Requirements

You must sign typed codicils in front of two witnesses. Don’t risk trying to make will changes or amendments by yourself. Making your own codicil may end up having your loved ones go to court to interpret your handiwork.

I have been involved in cases where a handwritten codicil conflicted with a typed will. The person making the codicil never reviewed the will and deleted the wrong clause, leading to a court case.

Computers now make it easier to change wills. Make new wills; do not amend old ones with codicils.

Need help with your will? Contact me for an appointment.