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What is a Will Amendment?

A will amendment is an addition to an already-existing will.  While the word “amendment” is usually associated with an addition to a document, it can also involve a deletion or subtraction of existing provisions.  Will amendments are common when a person obtains a new item of property and wishes to include it in their will, but doesn’t want to rewrite their entire will.

In this sense, a will amendment can be a very useful and resourceful tool for persons who are making small or slight changes to their will document.  Persons who wish to make drastic or major changes to a will may wish to consider writing a new will.

How Do Changes to a Will Affect its Validity?

Amending a will is common, and the will usually remains valid even after being amended.  However, modifying a will should be done with the same level of formality that the will was originally executed with. 

While states may differ regarding the different steps to make valid changes to a will, it’s good idea to take the following measures when adding an amendment to the will:

  • Put the amendments in writing in the most appropriate place of the existing will; if you add the changes to an unrelated section, the will can get confusing
  • Sign and date the changes to your will
  • Have at least 2 people witness the changes and have them sign it as well (preferably the same witnesses who helped sign the original document)

While it isn’t required, you may wish to include a statement or a footnote with the amendments, stating that the amendments are intended to be included as a formal part of the will.  This is to avoid any confusion in the future for persons who might not be aware of the new changes. 

What is a “Codicil”?

A will codicil is basically another word for an amendment.  Again, a codicil needs to be drafted, approved, and executed in the same way that the original will was executed.  For example, oral codicils or amendments are generally not considered as valid, especially where the original will is in writing. 

Should I make an Amendment or simply Re-write my Will?

Again, this depends on your needs.  If you only need to make small changes or updates to a will, a simple amendment is usually preferable.  But if you need to make major changes, you may need to create another will.

One thing you should understand is that you write an entirely new will, it will usually have the effect of canceling out the old one.  This might differ by jurisdiction, but the point is that you should understand the effects of making any changes or amendments to your will.  Unclear changes in a will are a common source of will contests.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Will Amendment?

Even simple will amendments will need the assistance of a lawyer.  As mentioned, you don’t want to make any changes to your will that might result in any unwanted or unforeseen effects.  You may wish to contact an experienced lawyer in your area if you need to update your will.  Or, if you have a dispute over a will amendment, you can also contact a lawyer for representation in court.   

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-02-2012 11:07 AM PDT

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