Updated: January 15, 2024
Creating your will is only half the work. You must keep it up to date with any changes that will alter your estate plans. You may need to add a few things or make major changes. Only you can do this; your Power of Attorney or Executor cannot. While there are many reasons you would need to alter a will soon after they happen, you should review it every 3-5 years even if nothing has changed.
The cleanest way to update your will is to create a new one. The process is similar to writing the original will, but can be less complicated since you have likely already done most of the work such as gathering assets and determining beneficiaries, executors, and guardians for your children.
If you are planning to make major changes or additions, it is best to invalidate your current will and start from the beginning. Since there are so many details involved, a new will makes it easier to change how your assets will be distributed unless they are otherwise accounted for in an addendum/codicil to your will.
Consider creating a new will when any of these events happen.
Giving away all or your property and assets before you die, although not practical, will essentially revoke your will. However, the primary reason to revoke a will is to replace it with a new one. In order for your new will to take effect you must formally revoke the previous one.
You can do this in the new will.
You can’t change your will by simply writing in additions to the current will or crossing out parts you no longer want. You need to create a new document. It can be a new will, but you can alternatively create a codicil that outlines the changes you want in your current will.
You likely will not need a codicil for wills created with computer programs. With these wills you or your lawyers can quickly make safe and accurate major or minor revisions to your will to essentially create a new will. They can also account for any new statutes or tax regulations that may have taken effect since your last will update.
A codicil/addendum is most useful when you want to make small or simple changes to a will that wasn’t created with an easily altered program. The major reason to use an addendum in these situations is that you can change, replace, or add items to your will without having to redo the entire body of the document. Redoing your will can be a major undertaking if it is particularly long or complex.
A codicil may be the better option if you simply need to make any one of these minor changes:
Aside from avoiding the need for a new will, creating an addendum/codicil has its pros and cons.
A codicil has to be done in a similar process to your will: with an opening paragraph, a paragraph with the changes you are making, a closing paragraph, and the proper signatures and statements of yours, the witnesses, and the notary public.
If you have existing codicils, the process of changing it should include the specific paragraph of the codicil which is being changed, and the paragraph that will replace it. Repeat this for each paragraph of your will you want to change.