03 Feb IT IS ESSENTIAL TO REVIEW YOUR WILL WITH AN ATTORNEY BEFORE MAKING ANY DESIRED CHANGES
Throughout your life, few documents will be as important or valuable to you as your will. Most people spend their adult lives considering what will become of their possessions after they pass away. “What will I leave to my children? My husband? My best friend?” The process of crafting an estate plan and determining how to parcel out one’s assets is a difficult and sometimes lengthy procedure. After making these hard decisions and finalizing a plan, it is common for people to have a change of heart.
We meet new people, our relationships can become strained, or a certain loved one might need to be provided for more than someone else. These are reasonable changes that can occur to anyone after they’ve crafted their will.
Under these circumstances, the instinct many people will have is to simply retrieve their will and write in the changes as they see fit. After all, the process of writing the first draft may have taken time and effort that you don’t want to go through again. Handwriting a simple change can avoid revisiting the process and save money.
Making any physical change to an estate plan is a serious mistake that people make and it has significant unintended consequences. Any alteration to a signed and witnessed will can invalidate the entire document. Writing changes onto a will immediately indicates that the intent of the testator has changed from when the signing was witnessed. Additionally, courts cannot be sure of the intent of the deceased once handwritten changes are made. This opens the door to fraud and leaves the will susceptible to a host of challenges by dissatisfied beneficiaries.
This issue does not pertain solely to the use of handwritten alterations to the language of a will. The physical integrity of a will is equally important to maintain the validity of the document. Any destruction of the will can provide the court with the implication that the maker of the will no longer intended it to be a representation of their final wishes. Large tears, burns, or even the removal of staples can create the presumption that the testator had a change of heart and no longer wished for this copy of the will to be used. Once this presumption arises, it becomes necessary to provide the probate court with an effective copy of a will. Failure to do so results in the deceased’s estate being probated intestate: not allowing for specific bequests and giving the entirety of the estate to the testator’s next of kin.
This is why it is essential for people who seek to change their will to hire an attorney to make their desired changes. A new will can appropriately reflect the changes you wish to see in your estate plan and ensure that your family and friends receive exactly what you intend. If you need help writing your first will or editing an existing will, Schillberg Law can assist you whenever you’re ready to get to work!
The author, Steven Oran, Esq., is an Associate at Schillberg Law, LLC. This blog post is not considered to be legal advice, and is intended for educational purposes only. For more information regarding any of the foregoing issues discussed above, please contact the author or Robert F. Schillberg, Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org).