One of the reasons why so many people are hesitant to create their estate plans is that they are under the impression that once they have created a will or another type of estate planning document, they cannot change whatever they have written. In reality, wills are so-called living estate documents. This means that they can generally be changed as often as the creator needs to alter them.
There are some exceptions to this general rule. They usually come into play in the event that the creator no longer is in a position to execute changes with their full mental faculties intact. For example, a patient with Alzheimer’s may not be in a position to change the terms of their will unless qualified medical professionals can confirm that such changes were made when the patient was fully lucid. With such limited exceptions, the creator of a will can generally alter the terms of that will as often as they need to.
The Process of Updating or Changing the Terms of a Will
As an experienced Knoxville, TN wills lawyer – including those who practice at Carpenter & Lewis PLLC – can confirm, the process of updating or otherwise altering the terms of a will varies based upon the state in which the will creator is living. Each state sets its own guidelines and regulations for how wills and other estate planning documentation must be drafted, altered, processed, and executed. As a result, it is important to speak with a local lawyer when looking to update your will or other estate planning documentation.
Failure to check with the lawyer about how you must go about changing the terms of your will or otherwise updating it can leave that document vulnerable to misinterpretation. Additionally, if your will was to be challenged in probate, the court may not honor your most recent updates or alterations if they have not been attended to in specific ways. For example, some states may honor an alteration as long as it is initialed by the will creator and dated. Other states may question whether such updates are sufficiently documented in ways that can be verified. It is far better to be safe than sorry, so it is a good idea to check with the lawyer about how to go about updating your living estate documentation.
Reasons to Update or Change the Terms of a Will
The court is not generally empowered to make assumptions on your behalf. Therefore, you cannot rely on logic when it comes to updating your will. Say that you have a current draft of your will ready to go in the event of your death. The terms of your will provide for each of your children. If you have another child before you die, you will need to update your will to reflect that you wish to name that youngest child as a beneficiary of your estate. The court will not simply assume that you wanted to include that child in your will unless certain provisions of state law come into play. As a result, if you have any reason at all to update your will, you will need to do so explicitly.