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Wills and estate planning

Estate planning basics: Updating your last will and testament

You basically have three choices when making changes to your Last Will and Testament: create a new will, make a codicil to your will, or simply alter your existing will.

Why do I need a will? Life is ever changing. For this reason, there may come a time where you'll want to change or update your last will and testament. Circumstances may include:

  • A new marriage or partnership
  • A divorce or separation
  • A new business venture
  • You need to assign a new executor
  • A beneficiary has died
  • Your assets have substantially increased
  • You've decided to leave a gift to a charity
  • Assets in your current will have since been disposed

Making changes to your last will and testament

If the time comes in your estate planning where you need to make changes, you essentially have the following three choices, with some being better than others.

#1: Make a whole new will

Making a new will is often the preferred way to go about making changes. When you create a new will, you must be sure to include specific language to cancel any earlier will that may exist. 

#2: Make a codicil to your will

A codicil is a legal document that is used to make changes to a will that has already been created. Executed by you, a codicil will allow you to modify, delete, or revoke anything you want in your will, and can be a simple way to make minor amendments. However, a codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way that the will is.

#3: Alter your existing will

Dragging your will out of a safe, making changes in longhand, and putting it away until you die is simply a very bad idea. Furthermore, this may not be considered valid testamentary disposition under the laws of your state. It may have worked back in the good old days but when done today, it can result in a multitude of legal implications, as well as create havoc with family members who may want to contest your will. In short, making changes to your will without making a codicil or consulting with an estate attorney isn't advisable.

For more information on wills and estate planning basics, visit the Protective Estate Planning Learning Center.



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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective or its subsidiaries.

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