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Modifying a Will

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How Do I Modify a Will?

One can modify a will by signing an amendment, also known as a codicil, detailing the changes you wish to be made to your will.  This codicil must be drafted in the same manner as drafting a will in order to be valid.  Therefore, you must: 

  • Be of sound mind
  • Expressly state that this document is your will
  • Sign and date the will
  • Have it be attested by at least two or three witnesses

How Do I Cancel a Will?

There are two main ways a will can be cancelled: 

  • Creating a new will, with the intent to cancel the prior will
  • Intentionally destroying the will

When you create a new will, it will override your prior will if there is specific language emphasizing your intent to do so.

A will can be cancelled by intentionally destroying it or by authorizing someone else to destroy it for you.  In order for this destruction to be valid you must have done so in the same manner as when creating the will.  However, the will remains valid if accidentally destroyed, such as by accident in a fire, or if deliberately destroyed without the testator's approval.

What Happens to my Will Following a Divorce?

Divorce or annulment from your spouse results in canceling only those terms in your will meant for your ex-spouse, leaving the remainder of your will intact.

However, if a divorced couple re-marries, those portions of the will voided by their divorce may be reinstated.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Change a Will?

Modifying and canceling wills can be both complex and confusing.  Different states have different laws regarding how and when a will can be modified.  If you choose to modify a will, consulting an experienced estate planning attorney is always a wise thing to do.  The potential tax implications and legal formalities of will modifications make an estate planning lawyer's counsel indispensable.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-06-2018 08:55 PM PDT

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