Is Your Estate Safe? Make Changes To Your Will In 6 Easy Steps

Accountancy Resources

Is Your Estate Safe? Make Changes To Your Will In 6 Easy Steps


During your life, you will likely have a number of conversations with loved ones about your last wishes after death. Unfortunately, these talks aren’t legally binding, nor a safe way to make sure that those wishes are upheld.

Your estate and all assets are only fully protected under an official living will.

Even after you have established that will, your situation may change. A birth, child adoption, beneficiary death, marriage, divorce, changes of opinion.

What is the best way to account for these changes?

Steps For Updating Your Will

A will is a legal document.

Failing to correctly alter your will under the law may render it invalid at the time of death.

In order to update the contents, you have to follow a specific set of steps.

Step 1 – Start Over Or Draft a Codicil

You don’t have to start a new will, but it can be much simpler than updating an existing document.

If you don’t want to start from scratch, you can create new codicils within the existing will.

A codicil is defined as any change that is made, which is signed and dated in front of an official witness. But, experts often warn against the use of codicils in modern wills, because they can be contested.

Whether you are using a new will or codicil, several terms must be met for the document to be valid:

  • You are of legal age (18).
  • The document is handwritten (there are some exceptions).
  • It names the will as your last wishes for your property.
  • Two mentally competent adults witness the signing.
  • It is signed by your or someone delegated to sign for you.
  • You are mentally competent.

Step 2 – Update or Create a Tangible Personal Property Memorandum

A TPPM is a list of items you own, and people to who you wish each item to be left.

Not every state will recognize or require a TPPM, but others demand one already be included when you sign.

Step 3 – Trash The Old Document

Having many copies of an old will can lead to contesting at a later date, or confusion for beneficiaries.

While some experts may claim you should keep a copy to prove intent in new provisions, it is much safer to destroy it.

Step 4 – Approach Sudden Changes With Caution

Try and avoid making any changes at the last minute to your will, or consider a competency hearing to prove you are of sound mind before making them.

If someone else is changing your will, issue them power of attorney.

Step 5 – Keep Beneficiaries Current

You have to update beneficiaries on all policies and accounts, including life insurance, retirement, and bank accounts.

Keep in mind that on some policies and accounts, the beneficiary named on the form may be maintained over the details of a will.

Step 6 – Make Any Other Designation Changes

Other designations to update are the executor of your will (the overseer of your wishes), an alternate executor in the case of the death or capacity status of your original executor, and current power of attorney (if there is one).