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Can I edit my will after I validate it?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2021 | Simple Wills | 0 comments

Your relationships, financial situation and other factors may change after creating a will in Virginia. Just because a certain inheritance or estate planning decision made sense at the time you created your will does not mean that you are stuck with it.

Changing your will can be as simple as creating a codicil to the original, but in some cases, it may be appropriate to create an entirely new will.

Using a codicil

As the Virginia State Bar explains, a codicil is essentially an amendment to your will that you validate in the same way. In Virginia, a valid will typically requires two witness signatures, but in some cases, you may be able to create a holographic will — a will that you write in your own handwriting and sign and date. Some counties may require you to register or store your will in a certain way. The more you do to validate your will, the better it will hold up to dispute.

A codicil works the same way as your will, only it revokes all or part of your will and amends your wishes. For example, you may plan your inheritance for three children and then have a fourth arrive. You do not need to create a whole new will but can write a codicil and validate it with any of the above means, such as by having two qualifying witnesses sign with you and attaching it to the original. In this case, your codicil may leave the decisions for your spouse and other loved ones untouched but revoke the portion concerning your children and revise the terms.

Just like a legal amendment, a valid codicil takes precedence over a will if there are conflicting terms. But you need to consider the same mitigating factors when creating one as you did your will. For example, remember that insurance policies, trusts and state inheritance laws could all override your decisions if you do not plan carefully.

Creating a new will

If you have complex revisions to address in your codicil, or if you have multiple codicils, it may be a good time to create an entirely new will. With modern technology, this may be as simple as revising a text document in your word processor, reprinting and signing with two witnesses.

Ultimately, this decision is up to you, but it is a good idea to anticipate potential confusion or disputes that could arise in court if your will is unclear.

Just be sure to register your new will or codicil with the appropriate court if your county requires it. You may be able to get away with less, but complying with all relevant laws and guidelines will help your will stand up to dispute.