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Do I need to change my will?

As we discussed earlier this month, many people are reluctant to address their estate planning needs owing to everything from concerns about time and money to fears of addressing their mortality.

Given this reality, those who have actually made the effort to execute a will outlining how they want their assets to be distributed, who they want to be executor and who they want to serve as guardians of any children should be commended for showing the necessary discipline and foresight.

It's important for those who have taken this step, however, to understand that it's not necessarily a "one-and-done" proposition, meaning it will more than likely be necessary to revisit and revise the terms of their will at some point owing to certain life changes. Indeed, the failure to do so could someday frustrate their estate planning objectives.

How can I change the terms of my will?

People must understand at the outset that changes can only be made to a valid will through a legal document known as a codicil. It is essentially an amendment to an existing will that must be executed in accordance with the same procedure/formalities. In other words, you can't simply cross things out on your existing will, or make additions or corrections in the margins.

When should execution of a codicil be considered?

Experts indicate that an individual might wish to consider executing a codicil in any of the following circumstances:

  • Major family changes, such as births or deaths
  • Asset values that either increase or decrease significantly
  • A named executor and/or guardian is no longer available or fit to serve the intended role  

As for marriage or divorce, they indicate that it results in automatic changes to an existing will, such that it might be necessary to consider executing a new one.

Should I execute a codicil if I moved to California with a valid will?

If you moved to California from another state with a will that is considered valid under its laws, it will be honored here in the Golden State. However, it's important to understand that California law will govern the probate process upon your death. As such, it might be necessary to consult with a legal professional as to whether a codicil or even a new will is necessary.

Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you would like to learn more about executing a will or codicil, or your other estate planning options.

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