How to update your will correctly

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When it comes to updating your will, it's a good idea to do it every few years.

When it comes to updating your will, it's a good idea to do it every few years. Whether you get married, get divorced, have a baby, have a grandchild or move to a state with different tax laws, it is a good idea to keep your last will and testament as up-to-date as possible.

There are no limits to how often you can make changes to or update your will, as long as you are determined to be mentally competent. However, you should follow appropriate steps to ensure that the changes you make will be properly carried out by your estate's executor. The following are five points to consider when planning changes to your will:

Are your changes large or small?

For smaller changes, you can attach a codicil, which is a legal document that allows you to change particular aspects of your will while leaving others unchanged. For example, a codicil is sufficient when you want to change executors. If, on the other hand, the changes you are planning are relatively sweeping, you may wish to revoke your existing will and create a new one. Large-scale changes include altering the majority of beneficiaries.

Be clear regarding changes

Include what is referred to in legal terms as a "recital" at the beginning of your codicil that clearly states why you are making the changes. Such an explanation makes it harder for others to contest your will based on your presumed intent following your death.

Find two witnesses

If you fill out a codicil in your own handwriting and then sign the amendment, there is no legal requirement for witnesses to be on hand. However, if you wish to play it safe, or if the changes are not made in your own handwriting, ask two witnesses to accompany you in signing the document.

Revise all versions of your will

When changing aspects of your will, make the same revisions in all versions of the document and destroy all copies of previous versions. Ensure the latest version of your will is signed in the presence of witnesses and notarized before you destroy all old copies.

Inform your executor

Each time you make a change in your will, be sure to inform your designated executor. This will make your executor's job much easier if he or she knows ahead of time about updates and alterations. Be sure your executor also knows how to obtain a copy of your will.

When it comes time to update your will, be sure your financial advisor is in on the conversation along with your estate planning attorney. Your financial advisor cannot guide you in your finances without knowing how you intend to divide your estate.

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