Integrity Matters.

Make sure to update an estate plan so your wishes are carried out

New Yorkers who create an estate plan do so with the intention of ensuring that their property goes where they want it to go and their loved ones are taken care of. It is always a wise step to be proactive with estate planning and have it in place so the heirs are fully protected. However, life changes are inevitable and people will need to be aware of the importance of updating their estate plan when those changes occur.

Understanding codicils and revoking previously written wills

A will, in its initial form, will detail various desires on the part of the testator. If the person wants a spouse to have a marital home, bank accounts, retirement accounts, collectibles and items of sentimental value, it can say so. Others like children, grandchildren, parents and close associates can be named in the will. People must remember that a codicil can update the will as needed. This is a supplement to the existing will. It can add provisions, change them or confirm the entire will or parts of it. It does not go so far as to revoke the will.

For some people, their life situation may require them to destroy the will and write an entirely new one. Divorce is a prime example of why someone might want to just tear up the old will. This will obviously have an impact on the will itself and any codicils that were added.

The revocation can be done in many ways by simply destroying it. The testator can do it or another person, doing so at the behest of the testator, can destroy it. There must be two witnesses in addition to the person who revokes it for this to be valid.

A nuncupative revocation (done orally) or holographic (in the testator’s handwriting) will also revoke the will. To do so orally, there must be two witnesses. If it is done in written form, it must be clearly be in the testator’s handwriting. Once the revocation is done, it also revokes codicils.

Updating an estate plan can make sure properties go where the testator wants

People frequently make the mistake of creating an estate plan and just forgetting about it. They are under the impression that they have done what they needed to do and it does not need to be updated or even revoked to address different circumstances. This can cause significant problems when the property is to be distributed.

Getting married, divorced, remarried, having children, coming into money, making personal changes and wanting to donate property—all are justifications to update a will. Those who have created a will at any age should think about when they want to update it to fulfill their goals.

Knowing the value of a codicil and the law for completely revoking a will and writing a new one is essential to achieve the primary objective of an estate plan: caring for loved ones. Periodically assessing the document and updating it as needed is imperative. To make sure that it will be legal and there are no issues when it is executed and the property is divided among the heirs, having professional assistance is useful. Calling for advice with all areas of estate planning can help with creating the will, updating it or writing an entirely new one.