As time passes and life changes, wills are often revised to update the beneficiaries, change names or addresses, or revise an executor or guardian of minor children. Understanding how to alter or revoke a will is essential, and failure to correctly change or cancel your Will can cause confusion during the probate process. At Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, we understand that estate planning is never a one-time affair. Our attorneys are prepared to advise you on whether a codicil or full restatement would be best for your situation.
Codicil to Will- What Is It and What You Need to Know
A codicil is a document that must be attached to the original Will and also observe the same formalities as the original. This creation of this very short document is ideal for making small changes to a Will. Revoking or invalidating your Will requires a complete rewrite, which may be preferable for more complex cases. In order for a new Will to have legal effect, a codicil must be formally executed just like the original Will. If executed correctly, the codicil will become a part of the Will.
What You Need to Know About Changing Your Will
There are two ways to change an existing Will: you can either create a codicil or revoke your existing Will. The previous Will may be revoked by creating a new one or physically destroying the original one.
Creating a New Will
By creating a new will, your former Will becomes void and unenforceable. This may be in your best interest if you want to make significant changes to your existing Will. In your new Will, you can include a statement such as, “I hereby revoke all former Wills,” to let people know that your new Will revokes any other you’ve created. While such language is not necessary, as long as your new Will meets all the legal requirements and provides different provisions from those in your old Will, it will effectively revoke your old Will. Creating a new Will is often the easier and most used option of the two.
Revoking a Will by Physical Act
You can destroy a Will by physically destroying, burning, tearing, or canceling it. It is important to note, however, that the act of physically destroying the old Will must be performed by the person who made the Will. If the person who made the Will cannot destroy it physically, another person may destroy it on their behalf, either under their direction or at least in their presence.
Revoking a Will is not the same as invalidating a Will through a Will contest. Will contests are brought after the testator (the person who created the Will) has died. When interested parties, which generally include beneficiaries or heirs, contest a Will, the aim is to challenge the document’s validity. For example, if a beneficiary believes the decedent was unduly influenced into altering the Will, they may seek a Will contest.
Want to Change or Revoke a Will? Learn How Pedder Hesseltine Walker and Toth Can Help.
Revoking or changing a Will without clearly understanding what is legally required could lead to unintended consequences. Seeking guidance from an experienced California Will and trust attorney who can ensure all your legal documents are correctly executed and enforceable is in your best interest. For assistance with creating, altering, or revoking a Will, contact us today to set up an initial consultation by calling 925-283-6816 or reaching us online.