So you finally sat down and did some serious estate planning which included preparing a Will. However, that may have been over 20 years ago when you were a young couple living in a rented apartment with a newly born baby, and your reasons for preparing a Will were revolved around guardianship issues. Consequently the content of the Will was adjusted to fit your then circumstances.
Twenty years later, you are a family of six, you have accumulated assets including the home which you now live in, and after travelling the world,. Perhaps it’s time to revise your Will, since estate plans should be reviewed periodically to make sure they remain accurate.
Here are some more reasons that suggest preparing a new Will is advised:
A change in your family status- either a divorce or a new marriage should trigger preparing a new Will to accommodate the change.
The individuals you bequeathed to have deceased and/or there are additional individuals you would like to add to the Will.
If you live in the US, and/or moved between U.S. states you should periodically check the state laws that apply to make sure there have not been any changes to the inheritance rules. It is especially important to have your estate plan reviewed if you move from a common law state to a community property state. Each state has its own legal requirements for making a Will.
If you want to make a change in guardians or if the children have reached the age of 18 and there is no need to appoint a guardian at all.
A substantial increase or decrease in the value of your estate.
Changes to a Will can be made at any time, provided you're mentally competent. In most cases, preparing a new Will automatically revokes the old one.
In Israel the law states that a new Will, even if it does not explicitly revoke the provisions of the previous Will, is deemed to cancel the previous one if the provisions of the new Will do not conform to the newer one unless the new Will only adds to the previous one. Mutual Wills have their own set of rules.
In the United States it is important to make sure that the changes in the Will are compliant with the state you live in, so the Will won't later be declared invalid because you made changes to it. State laws can differ, so it's advisable to consult with a local estate-planning attorney.
In the UK and in the US (less so in Israel), when making small changes (such as changing the executor of the Will) a codicil may suffice. A codicil is a secondary document attached to your original will, spelling out the change you want to make.
However, it's often easiest to just revoke your old Will and write a new one if you want to make substantive changes, especially if your state requires that you follow all the same legalities for a codicil as you would if you were going to make a Will. And if you're making several small changes to your Will or a significant one like changing your beneficiaries, this is often the better option. It is important to state in your new Will that you are revoking all previous Wills. Some Wills actually list all the previous Wills by date in order to be on the safe side.
It is vital to get rid of your previous Will. If possible, have witnesses watch you tear it up and explicitly state to them that you're destroying your previous Will. The court can't honor something that no longer exists, and your witnesses can testify to this in court if needed. Also make sure you destroy any existing copies as well.
Wills should be reviewed every few years in order to make sure they are accurate and in line with your current circumstances. We recommend having a Will prepared by an experienced lawyer, in order to mitigate the risk and the heavy costs associated with claims or disputes that arise after the Will-maker’s death.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and is not a substitute for legal consultation. Specific legal advice should be sought in accordance with the particular circumstances.