If you’re wondering how to update your will, congratulations. You’re a step ahead of most people. There’s a tendency to view a will and other estate planning documents as something you check off a great cosmic “to-do” list and never have to think about again.
But aspects of your life change, and laws change too. It is important to ensure that your will and other documents are still able to accomplish your goals. Knowing when to update your will is just as important as knowing how to do it.
Two Options for Changing a Will
Under Maryland law, you can legally change the provisions in your will in one of two ways. First, you can create a codicil. A codicil is a supplement to your will that makes modifications. You can use it to revoke or change terms, such as adding a beneficiary. The codicil is read together with the will and interpreted in conjunction with the will.
However, there are problems with using a codicil to make changes. First, the codicil can get separated from the will. If it’s lost, the changes will have no effect. If the will is lost and just the codicil is found, it’s possible that it could be admitted into probate on its own because it would have been executed with the same formalities as a will, but it would be missing provisions that you included in your original will.
Another potential problem with creating a codicil is that it may be confusing when combined with the terms of the will, and the document may not be interpreted the way you intend.
Instead, it is usually better to create an entirely new will combining provisions from the original with the additions you would have included in a codicil. Since it is easy to make changes in electronic documents and you need to abide by the same formalities regardless of whether you execute a codicil or an entirely new will, creating a new will is usually the best option.
When to Update Your Will
You can update your will at any time, as long as you remain legally competent. The Maryland Judiciary recommends reviewing your will once a year. In particular, it is important to look closely at the terms of your will if:
- You got married or divorced
- You have more children
- A child dies or any of your beneficiaries die
- Property gifted through your will changes significantly
- You move to a different state
- The person named as your executor/personal representative is not able to serve
- The person named as guardian or trustee for your minor children is not able to serve
- You change your mind about provisions in your will
- Your will is not self-proving and your witnesses have moved away, died, or become incompetent
When you make a new will, the old one is revoked automatically. However, to avoid confusion, you may also want to destroy the old will or personally write the word “void” on each page..
The Law Office of Ralph W. Powers, Jr., P.C. Can Keep Your Will Up-to-Date
Mistakes in wills often do not come to light until it is too late to correct them. That makes it particularly important to have the terms reviewed by an experienced attorney. If you just try to write in changes to the document on your own, you risk making the entire will invalid.
To ensure that your will or other estate planning documents still adequately protect your interests and that they can accomplish your goals, we invite you to schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney at the Law Office of Ralph W. Powers, Jr., P.C.