Can I Make Handwritten Changes to a Will Without an Attorney?

A will is the most important estate planning document that you need. Your will ensures that your property is distributed to your heirs according to your wishes rather than the state dictating what happens to your property after you die.

Without a valid will, the intestate laws of your state determine who inherits your property as well as what percentage of your estate each heir inherits. This may or may not be in accordance with your wishes. Intestate laws only permit relatives to inherit from your estate. This prohibits friends and charities from inheriting from your estate even though that was your intent.

Furthermore, distributing property according to intestate laws could create serious issues when minors inherit an interest in property. To avoid problems and to ensure your final wishes are carried out, you need to have a valid, updated will at all times.

What is a Valid Will?

When you die, your will must be filed with the probate court and validated. The laws in each state vary regarding what constitutes a valid will. Most states will accept a will drafted in another state provided the will meets the requirements for a valid will in that state when it was drafted.

In order to validate a will, the court reviews the will to determine if it meets the requirements for a valid will under state law. For example, if state law requires that a will be witnessed by two individuals who are not heirs of the testator and that the signatures are notarized, the court will not accept the will as valid if it is missing the notary signature.

If your will is not valid, intestate laws will govern how your estate is administered and how your property is distributed. It is extremely important that you take steps to ensure your will is valid when it is signed and that you do not do anything to invalidate the will after you sign it.

How Do I Change My Will After It Is Signed?

State law recognizes that a person may want to change his or her will for various reasons. Heirs may predecease the person, additional children may be born, or the person may simply have a change of heart. Regardless of the reason why a person may want to change his or her will, the person must be careful not to invalidate the will in the process of making the changes.

Can I Make Handwritten Changes to a Will?

It is tempting to make handwritten changes to a will, especially if the changes are simple, such as changing a name; however, this may or may not be valid in your state. Some states accept handwritten changes to a will, under certain circumstances, while other states consider handwritten changes to a will as invalidating the entire will.

Regardless of whether your state permits handwritten changes to a will, it is never a good idea to change a will in this manner. Handwritten changes to a will are easy to challenge in court and could potentially invalidate the will even though your state law recognizes this as a valid means of making changes to your will. There are better ways to make changes to your will than writing on the original will.

What Is The Best Way To Make Changes To My Will?

You have two options for changing a will after it is written other than making handwritten changes to your current will. Depending on the types of changes you are making and the extent of those changes, you may want to choose to revoke your current will by making a new will.

● Revoking an Old Will

If the changes you want to make to your current will are extensive, your best option is to revoke your current will by making a new will. Signing a new will automatically revokes all previous wills; however, you should always destroy the original and all copies of your old will to be safe. Having copies of an old will can create confusion and opens your new will to challenges by heirs.

● Adding a Codicil to Your Will

You also have the option of adding a codicil to your will to make changes to the original will. A codicil is a document that is attached to your will making changes or adding additional terms to the original will. In order to be valid, the codicil must be drafted and signed in the same manner as the will; therefore, most people find it is just as easy to draft a new will to make changes rather than adding a codicil. Furthermore, codicils can be lost, create confusion, or be used to challenge the validity of the entire will.

Changes To Wills Are Common

It is very common for people to change their wills several times over the course of their lifetime because of certain events or for personal reasons. Because a person may change the will several times, it is tempting to make handwritten changes to a will. While changing a will is a fairly simple procedure, you must pay close attention to the details and know your state laws regarding wills and changes to wills. If you have questions about changing your will, you should seek the advice of an attorney with experience in estate planning.