Can I Change My Will?


Frequently I get questions about changing a Will.  Crossing out a line and adding a new one on one’s own original of the Will is not a valid and enforceable change.  The change was not done in the presence of the witnesses who signed the Will and attested to it.  

Before modern technology Wills were written by scribes, or, from the early industrial era until very recently, prepared on typewriters without memories. It was a bigger operation to rewrite or retype an entire Will than to prepare a separate document amending the will.  The law called this separate written document amending the Will a “codicil.” However, that law requires that the codicil satisfy the same formal requirements as the original will, including being signed before two witnesses. The codicil has to be clearly written to identify how it is altering the Will’s provisions and not revoking the Will.  Using a codicil also adds a risk because the codicil may be lost, leaving an unamended original Will in place.

For these reasons, most attorneys recommend that a new Will be prepared, rather than using a codicil. I recently had a client approach me about making a change in one part of her Will.  I recommended she give careful consideration to whether any other changes should be made, and making them all in a new Will.