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How to update your last will and testament

Life happens, and when it does, your estate planning documents may no longer apply. An out-of-date will may be worse than no will at all, in some cases. 

Fortunately, making updates to your estate plan does not have to be difficult.

Revoking your will

If your life has changed significantly, you may want to scrap the old will and start fresh. That is not necessarily to say you should destroy the first will. You may want to, but if you go this route, it is a good idea to do it in front of the people who serve as witnesses to your new will.

On the other hand, some legal professionals advise keeping the old will, particularly if there are many provisions that are the same as or similar to those in the new will. This may provide evidence that no one unduly influenced you, and that you were of sound mind when you created the new one.

Whether or not you destroy the old will, the new will should have a clause stating that you had an earlier will and are revoking that one. 

Amending your will

You may not want to rewrite the whole will if there are only minor changes. Instead, you may want to add a codicil or make an amendment. This process is just as formal as creating a will: You and two witnesses must sign and date it. Keep the codicil with the will so that, when you die, it is obvious to the probate court and your executor that you created the codicil after you created the will.

To prevent the need to add a codicil every time you have a change in your life, such as in the case of selling a vehicle and purchasing a new one, you can include a clause addressing the change. For example, if you want to leave your vehicle to your nephew, but you traded that particular car in for another, you may state you are entitling your nephew to the vehicle in your possession at the time of your death. By including this language, you avoid the need to revisit your estate plan every time you make a new purchase.

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