Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! When you just want to change your Will.

by Katy Sheehan on February 16, 2010

in Estate Planning


Everyone can agree that the only constant in life is change.  Just as there are all different types of change ranging from major to minor in life, so too are there types of change in estate planning.  We’ve already talked about what to do if you want to entirely revoke a will but what if you only want to make some minor changes to a Will?

There are two basic options.  You can either revoke the current will and write a new one which follows the requirements for a valid will, or you can write a codicil to the Will.  “Codicil” is a will that modifies or partially revokes an existing earlier will.  RCW 11.02.005 (9)

The definition in Washington from RCW 11.02.005(9) says that a codicil is a will, therefore the document changing your will must meet all the requirements for a valid will which are generally set out in RCW 11.02.  The other important requirement is that the codicil must accurately identify the document it proposes to modify.  The codicil does not have to be attached to the will but it does have to identify the will to the extent that it shows that the testator intended to make the modifications to the previous will.

[Example language: "I, _________________, do hereby make this codicil to my last will and testament which was signed before witnesses and dated on ________, and confirm that no other codicils to my last will and testament have been made previously.  I hereby amend Paragraph ___ with a new Paragraph ___ that shall read as follows:  ..."]

Why would someone execute a codicil when you have to go through all the formalities of a will anyway?  That is the question that each person has to figure out for themselves.  However, if you are only changing a few things, like changing “$100.00 to Jenny Perez” to “$150.00 to Jenny Perez,” then re-writing a whole will doesn’t make sense.  That said, if you plan on re-structuring the entire estate plan then writing a new will is probably a better choice.

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