Do I need an attorney to change my last will and testament?

Your Last Will and Testament is an expression of your wishes in regards to your possessions and real property after you die. But what happens if you change your mind about something or if you want to change something in your last will and testament?

Reasons to change your last will and testament?

You might be on the fence about changing your Will, but there are a lot of good reasons to change your Will. As you age, your life changes. At one point in your life you were single. Later in your life you might be a newlywed or a new parent. Eventually, you’ll become a seasoned parent, an empty nester, and (hopefully) far in the future, you might become a widow or a widower. Your life changes as you go through different phases, and your Will needs to keep up with you.

Here are a few common reasons to make changes to your Will:

  • You get married
  • You get divorced
  • You have a new child
  • You lose a child
  • You get remarried
  • Your nominated executor dies
  • Your nominated guardian for your kids dies
  • Your spouse dies
  • Your kids leave the house
  • Your kids get married (and you don’t like your new child-in-law)
  • Your kids get married (and you do like your new child-in-law)
  • Your kids have kids
  • You want to change who receives an inheritance
  • You want to change something else

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Your will is yours and it needs to reflect where you are in your life and what you want to have happen after you’ve passed away.

How to change your last will and testament?

There is only one way to change your Will and that’s by creating a Codicil … and no, you don’t need an attorney to create this for you. However, your codicil needs to meet the legal requirements as your will.

  • The testator need to have the capacity to create the codicil
    • If you’re reading this, then you’re probably the testator and you probably have the capacity to create your codicil. Capacity means that you are over the age of 18 and that you know who you are, know what you have and you know what you want to do it.
  • Your codicil needs to be properly drafted, executed, and witnessed.
    • A properly drafted codicil is in writing, signed by the testator or a person in the testator’s presence and at the testator’s direction. You codicil must also witnessed and signed by at least two witnesses who are over the age of 18.
  • A type of codicil recognized in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

Why You Should not Change Your Will

So, this is the part of the blog when I try to convince you to create a brand, new, shiny will instead of creating a codicil. Hear me out ….

The reason that codicils were created is because Wills used to all be handwritten by scribes. Wills are long and it would take hours, if not days, to rewrite a will for a change. Today, we use computers and word processing systems. We can make a whole new will for less effort that it takes to create a codicil. That sounds crazy, right? But it’s true.

Plus, you can update you will to take advantage of changes in the tax code. It also removes the risk that the codicil will be forgotten or left out when you die and your will is probated. It lessens the risk of someone challenging the change to your will.

Another reason to create a new will is if you’re seeing a new attorney. From an attorney’s perspective, a will created by another attorney might have some legal or execution issues. As much as you might want to amend one part of an older will, if that will is invalid because it wasn’t signed correctly, then your new codicil is also invalid. That means that you are not getting what you want, which is a Last Will and Testament

For all the reasons above: new technology including word processing software and printers, a law that is subject to the whims of the legislature, and ensuring that your final wishes are followed, a new Last Will and Testament