Relationships with family, friends and even charities change all the time. At the time you initially create your estate plan, you may intend to leave specific property or assets to a certain individual. However, circumstances may change and you want to change the way your assets are to be distributed. If you have a will and are looking to revoke that will or make changes to the will, the good news is that it is generally easier to change or revoke a will than to create one. Changes to wills are not only possible, they are often advisable. In fact, individuals should get into the practice of reviewing their will every few years, or every time there is a major life-changing event. Keeping a will current will ensure that the property is distributed in accordance with the property holder's intent.
Wills should be periodically reviewed to make sure the “testator,” which is the name of the individual who makes the will, understands where the property is designated to go after they pass away. When a family member gets married, has a baby, gets divorced, or passes away, the testator may want to modify their will in light of such changes. In some cases, circumstances change so much that the testator may want to simply revoke the entire will and create a new one.
Additionally, federal and California state estate and tax laws change all the time. Many of these changes will impact an estate, how property is treated after death, and how property is taxed. A regular review of the will in light of changing laws can ensure that the estate is not subjected to unnecessary taxes or delays in distribution.
Making basic changes to a will can be done through executing a “codicil.” The codicil acts as an amendment to the will. Creating a codicil is similar to creating a will. In general, the codicil should be signed before two witnesses, who also sign the codicil. The codicil should also be kept with the will so that the documents will be taken together as the testator's last will and testament.
Revoking a will terminates the will. The individual who revokes their will should then create a new will, or if left without a will or trust, their property may be distributed according to state intestacy laws. Creating a new will that specifically revokes the old will acts to terminate the prior will. Alternatively, destroying the will can be done by a physical act by the testator or at the direction of the testator. Burning, tearing, or destroying the will is a revocation of the document.
The simplest way to revoke or modify a will and make sure it is done in accordance with the law is to contact your San Diego trust and estates attorney. Without the documentation in place, there is no way to ensure your wishes will be carried out after you pass away. A proper estate plan will give you and your family the peace of mind that they will be cared for well into the future.
If you have any questions about making a will, changing your will, or revoking your will, Butterfield Schechter LLP is here to help. We will answer all your questions and make sure your estate plan will provide for your loved ones and keep your best interests at heart. Contact our office today with any questions on how we can help you succeed.