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Right and wrong way to change will, trust

Farm & Family: Changes may invalidate other terms or revoke the will or trust in its entirety.

Mark Balzarini

January 12, 2024

2 Min Read
A book titled Wills and Trusts sits on a desk near a stack of other books
NULL AND VOID: If not done properly, changes to a will or trust could invalidate the previous document. It is best to seek professional guidance when changes are deemed necessary. designer491/Getty Images

I am occasionally asked if it will work to make written changes on a will or trust document. My response is that this is not advisable.

There are legal requirements to the execution of a will. When making changes to the will, those specific requirements must be met or the changes will not be effective. Further, it is possible that these writings and alterations on the will document may invalidate other terms of the will or may even revoke the will entirely.

Even if it is found that the written changes are properly executed, there is the heightened risk that these new terms will be challenged when the will is probated.

The proper way to make changes to a will is to either execute a new will or to execute a codicil to the will. A codicil supplements the terms of the original will, and alters and amends the sections of the will that are referenced. A codicil must be executed in the same manner as a will. The requirements for executing a will are:

  • The person executing the will must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind.

  • The will must be in writing.

  • The will must be signed by the person executing the will.

  • The will must be witnessed and signed by at least two people who are 18 years of age or older.

Restate or amend

For a revocable trust, the recommended way to make changes is to execute a restatement of the trust or an amendment to the trust. It is recommended that this restatement or amendment be signed, notarized and witnessed. These recommended steps help ensure the validity of the trust terms and protect the trust from legal challenges.

My suggestion when reviewing your will or revocable trust is to keep a pen and paper close by. Do not make markings or highlights on the will or trust document pages. Do not cross out sections or tear out pages. These actions run the risk of causing the documents to become invalid. These also make the will or trust more susceptible to legal challenges.

Use the pen and paper to take notes. Write out the changes you want to make, identifying the pages and the sections of the will or trust so they are easy to find. Contact legal counsel to help determine if you need a new will, a codicil to the will, a restatement of the trust or an amendment to the trust based on the changes you are making.

About the Author(s)

Mark Balzarini

Mark Balzarini is an attorney at law with Hellmuth & Johnson PLLC. Contact him at [email protected].

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