A Will is formally known as The Last Will and Testament. The word “last” is used on purpose, because in our lifetime we may have many different (often contradicting) plans on what to do with our estate. A Will might give an impression of a set-in-stone type of document, but it is actually rather flexible and can be changed an unlimited number of times during your lifetime. Whether you had your Will drafted a few years or a few decades ago, it’s important to review it every now and then to make sure it still communicates your wishes. And if you need to make amendments, your Maryland estate planning attorney will be able to assist. Here are a few of the reasons why you might wish to amend your Will.
Your Personal Situation Has Changed
Think of your family and evaluate what has changed in the past couple years. Is there a new family member that should be in your Will? Did you have a falling-out with your brother-in-law and now wish to leave him without inheritance? It is suggested that you review your Will after any of the following changes in your life:
- You got divorced or remarried
- You had or adopted another child
- Someone named in your Will passed away
- Your family extended through grandchildren, children-in-law, etc.
- You moved to another state
Your Estate Assets Have Changed
Remember that ’69 Ford Thunderbird you willed to your son? Maybe you don’t own it anymore. Maybe you left a nice bequest to charity, and the remainder to your children, but now that charitable bequest would represent most of your estate. If your Will isn’t amended, your children may not inherit what you had planned. A few other asset changes to consider:
- Your stock holdings went way up (or way down) in value
- You declared bankruptcy
- You lost or acquired major assets
- You received an inheritance or won a lottery
The Laws Have Changed
State and federal tax laws may change so that your estate will be subject to estate taxes. In this case, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced and dedicated estate planning lawyer who will make sure you are protected and get in touch with you if any future legislative changes occur. You should also consider reviewing your Will if you have recently moved to Maryland from a different state. State laws often differ, so it’s worth making sure your Will made in Pennsylvania or Texas is going to have the same benefits in Maryland.
How Do You Amend a Will?
If you have changes you want to make to your Will, you can contact your Maryland estate planning attorney to either amend the current Will or make a new one. Any changes or amendments to a Will must be made by a “Codicil, ” a legal document that revokes, clarifies or otherwise changes a Will or a part of a Will. Never just write your changes on your existing Will. Not only will they not be recognized in court, but they may undermine the validity of your entire Will. Codicils should be dated, signed and witnessed in the same manner as a Will. If you have only a minor change, a Codicil may be enough, but if you are reconsidering your entire Will, writing a new one might make more sense—and often the cost is substantially the same. Also, it is often preferable to avoid Codicils, as they can get detached from the Will, or may serve as grounds for a beneficiary to contest your Will if they see that a Codicil reduces their inheritance.
Also, keep in mind that amending the Will won’t change other estate documents that have a named beneficiary. So, if you have a life insurance policy or a payable-on-death account where your ex-spouse is named as a beneficiary, you need to update both of these documents separately.
If you have any questions about amending your current Will or writing a new one, contact DK Rus Law for a free consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.