When a major life event occurs, you may feel the need to change your will or make a new will entirely. This might include going through a divorce, getting remarried or finding a new partner, having children, or moving to another part of the country. If you move from a community property state to a state with different property rules, this may affect how your property ownership and your existing will are interpreted. Also, relationships among family members change over time. If you repair your relationship with an estranged sibling or child, for example, you may want to give them a larger share of your property.
Common Reasons to Change a Will
Marriage or divorce
Birth or adoption of a child
Purchase of substantial property
Sale or loss of property described in an existing will
Substantial changes to finances
Death of a beneficiary
Adding or removing a beneficiary or executor
Appointing a new guardian for a minor child
Moving to a new state
You may want to consider making new arrangements if you buy a new home or accumulate other assets of significant value. Likewise, if you give away significant assets that are covered in your existing will, you may want to adjust your allocations to beneficiaries to make sure that they are still fair. A beneficiary will not automatically receive a replacement for an asset granted to them in a will if the asset has been given to someone else already. In other cases, you may want to leave a specific asset to a certain person, such as if they have an emotional attachment to it. Or you may want to leave some money to a charity that supports a cause that has become important to you later in your life.
Changing a Will
Traditionally, someone who wanted to change a will would add a document to it called a codicil. This would contain new provisions or amendments to existing provisions. However, adding this separate document is no longer necessary and probably is not worth the effort. Codicils are subject to the same requirements as wills to ensure their validity, such as having signatures and witnesses. They often can cause confusion and disputes after a testator’s death. An extra document may look like an addition to some people and like a replacement to others.
To avoid these issues, you should simply make a new will. This will need to meet the same requirements as your existing will, but it should not require any more time or money than making a codicil. Your new will should provide that it revokes all of the previous wills (and codicils, if applicable) that you have made. This should be enough to establish that it is your valid will.
Revoking a Will
In some situations, you may want to get rid of a current will but may not be ready to make a new will. Some people destroy their current will in the belief that this makes it invalid, but this strategy may not work. If there are any other copies beyond those that you have destroyed, a probate court in some states like Texas may find those copies valid, depending on the situation. However, most probate courts presume that a testator intentionally destroyed a will if it is missing. Someone who wants to argue that a copy of the same will should be honored will need to produce evidence to rebut that presumption.