Make a New Document

The best way to change your will is to make a new one. In the old days, making a new will meant typing a new document. Today almost everyone has access to a word processor. Making the changes you want is as easy as pushing the delete button and inserting the changes. When you make a new will, it gives you a chance to review all of the provisions of the old will. By the time you alter your will, you may own different property, there may have been a birth or a death in your family, and it's likely that the needs of your loved ones have changed.

Repeating the Process

When you change your will, you should again ask yourself who, what, where, when, and why. Who is receiving your property, what are they receiving, where are they going to take possession of the property, when do you want them to have the property, and why?

When you make a new will, it is highly recommended that in addition to stating all prior wills are revoked, you destroy the old will and all copies. This is not the time to keep your old papers to memorialize what you wanted several years ago. You don't want multiple wills presented to the probate court after you are gone.

When you follow this process regarding each piece of property you own, it is much more likely that your instructions will be clear, minimizing the possibility that someone will contest your will. Think of the process as a game — the players and the property are constantly changing.

The Former Will

When you revoke your old will by making a new one, you need to be very careful that your new will specifically states that you are making a new will and that it completely revokes all prior wills.

There is a very good reason why you need to be very specific when you make a new will: if the new will does not say that all old wills are revoked, and an old will is found, both documents could be admitted to probate. Then, your property will be distributed according to the provisions of both documents.

For example, assume you sign your first will and leave $50,000 to your friend Jane. Three years later, you sign will number two. You intended the second will to revoke the first one, but it does not specifically state that the first will is revoked. The second will leaves $100,000 to Jane. If the second will does not revoke the first will, Jane might receive both the $50,000 distribution from the first will and $100,000 from the second. This may not be what you intended, but you are not alive to tell the probate court what you did intend.

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