Summary: The end of the calendar year can be a time of reflection, including reflecting on one’s estate plan. Most estate planning documents can be changed either through an addendum document (such as a trust amendment or will codicil) or through replacement documents. It is very important that your change documents are drafted, signed, dated and witnessed properly, in order to ensure that they meet all the statutory requirements of your state.
As 2014 progresses toward its conclusion, many people use the holiday season as an opportunity for reflection on the year that is nearly complete and looking forward to the new year ahead. As part of this, now is an excellent time to assess your estate plan and determine if you need to pursue. Have you experienced a life event that changes your family situation (such as a marriage, divorce, birth or death) that you would desire to reflect in your plan? Perhaps, as you review your plan, you simply have decided that you’d like to change some of the decisions you’ve made in plan. Regardless of the reason, if you want to change your plan, you generally can. It is very important, though, to make sure that you complete the changes in the right way, in order to avoid the legal complications that can arise from an improper change document.
Generally, a will is changed through a document called a “codicil.” A codicil allows you to revoke certain parts of your will or add new elements to your existing will. The law is very demanding with regard to whether a codicil is valid or not. Codicils must be dated, signed and witnessed just like wills. In some cases, however, it may be easier and more effective simply to replace your old will with a new one. If you decide to create a new will, it is very important that you make sure you legally revoke your old will. This is generally done by inserting language into your new will that says that you revoke all the wills you previously signed.
You have similar options with your living trust. You may put your desired changes into effect through a trust amendment document. Your trust amendment should be signed, witnessed and/or notarized exactly as your trust agreement document was. If both you and your spouse signed the trust agreement, both of you should sign the amendment. If you and your spouse created your trust together but your spouse has since passed, there may be some types of changes that are not allowed.
In some cases, it may make more sense to revoke your trust and replace it with a new one to achieve the changes you want. Because this can be complicated and time-consuming, these situations are more rare.
For your powers of attorney, changes are generally achieved by replacing the existing documents with new powers. Much like a replacement will, your replacement power of attorney should revoke previous powers by including language spelling out that revocation. For any of these changes, your estate planning attorney can walk you through the process and make certain that the documents bringing your desired changes to life will meet all the requirements dictated by the law.
This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website