There are many reasons you may need or want to amend your will. You may get married, remarried, or divorced. You may have a child or adopt a child. You may buy or sell property. Any significant change or life event often prompts a revision to your estate plan to incorporate these updates. Making changes to your New York will can be relatively simple with an attorney’s guidance. Here’s what to know to get started.
How to Amend Your Will in New York
There are two primary ways to update your will: writing a codicil or creating a brand new will. A codicil is an elaborate word for a document that amends your existing will. Modifying your will using a codicil simplifies the update process so you don’t have to rewrite your will entirely. Depending on your individual needs and situation, you may find a codicil is easier and more efficient for the changes you need to make.
Why Use a Codicil?
You may have minor additions or updates you want to make to your current will that don’t require a lot of explanation or detail. If so, a codicil allows these changes to be easier to manage. For example, you may want to change who you’ve named as a beneficiary of certain assets or update the details of how you want your funeral handled.
Other reasons for a codicil include, but aren’t limited to:
- Removing a deceased beneficiary. If one of the people you name as a beneficiary dies while you’re still alive, you’ll need to remove that person and amend any reference to them.
- Adding another descendent. When your child has a baby, you’ll likely want to add your grandchild to the list of beneficiaries.
- Updating property designations. You may purchase or acquire new property not cited in your original will. If you want someone specific to receive this property as a gift, you can include them in your will using a codicil. Or, conversely, maybe you’ve changed your mind about who should receive an existing piece of property or you want to bequeath that person some other asset. This can also be accomplished in a codicil.
Additionally, creating a new will can be time-consuming and become a much longer process than you have time for. It also can be more costly than simply adding a codicil to your existing document.
Changes to a New York Will: When Should You Write a New One?
It’s often better to write a new will if you have many updates to make to your existing document, a significant change to make, or there could be confusion or a lack of clarity about the changes described in a codicil.
Here are more instances when you might want to write a new will:
- Adding a trust. Because a trust might affect many people and specifics cited in your will, it’s probably easier to write a new will.
- Multiple changes. It’s possible that you need to make many additions to your will, remove some asset items, and adjust certain aspects of what you’ve written. In general, if you have more than 10 changes, it’s best to rewrite your will. It’s critical that the language be consistent, and that nothing is left to chance due to confusing wording.
- Accumulate large assets. If you receive an inheritance or extensive real estate, win the lottery, or have monumental success in the stock market, your original will probably doesn’t allow for this largess. These big changes should be addressed in detail, so working with your estate planning attorney to draft a new will serves your needs better than a codicil.