Fact or Fiction: Handwritten Changes to a Will Invalid?

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Handwritten wills - Law Office of Jennifer Messick LawYou’ve taken the time to plan for and draft a last will and testament—years ago. So when is it a good idea to consider updating your will?

First, the legal term for updating a will is known as a “codicil.” Now, let’s go over some common situations when updating a will would be appropriate:

  • Change in the health of executors. If the primary executor becomes terminally ill or incapacitated, for instance, double-checking whom you’ve named as successor executors makes sense.
  • Change in beneficiaries. Likewise, if any beneficiaries have pre-deceased you, picking an alternate beneficiary would be a meaningful update and would clarify your intentions.
  • Minor children reaching age of majority. Many parents create a last will at the birth of a child in order to name appropriate guardians. Once the kids turn eighteen years old, however, a guardian for minor children becomes unnecessary. The birth of additional children presents another good time to update a will.
  • Changes in relationships with executors or beneficiaries, including death or divorce. As an example, if you have named your spouse as the initial executor but then decide to divorce, you should definitely update the will to reflect the change. Although most courts would by default assume that the choice for executor only applies during marriage, updating avoids any potential misunderstanding during probate. The same holds true for any executors or beneficiaries with whom the relationship has soured or where the individuals have predeceased you.

Second, how would one follow the legal requirements for updating a will?

The answer depends wholly on the state in which the will was created. The State of Alaska recognizes handwritten wills, known as a “holographic wills,” so making changes in your own handwriting would be valid. Keep in mind that this is true only where the original will was entirely handwritten. Next, keep in mind that you will still need witnesses to sign within a reasonably short time (a day or so, for example) after you complete the codicil.

For more information on updating your will, contact an estate planning attorney.

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About Jenn Messick

I am an attorney practicing at M/V Alaska Law, an Anchorage, AK law firm helping clients all throughout Alaska navigate legal issues in divorce, family law, probate, and bankruptcy. I'm an outdoors person who enjoys hiking, skiing, hunting, spending time with family, and the beautiful scenery in Alaska. Jenn Messick's Google+ Profile

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