When it comes to their will, people come to my office for a variety of reasons. Some have never had an estate plan and are just learning about them for the first time. Others drafted their plan themselves thanks to a website they found. These days I have been seeing more clients come to me with plans that need updating.
The most common scenario I encounter is a couple with children who are now grown. When the children were young, they smartly set up a will. Many of them also included a trust or other estate plan device for their kids. But now the children are older, most often graduating college or already graduated. All of that smart planning from years ago just doesn’t make sense with their current situation.
Do I Need A Whole New Will?
Depending on how involved the original planning was, some people may be intimidated to do a whole new will. By the way, the process shouldn’t be intimidating. Hopefully, you had a good relationship with the drafter of your will. You spent time reviewing the document and understood what it says. Your questions were answered. You kept it in a safe place. And most importantly, you never had to use it.
It’s far too common that I meet with people who did not have that type of experience. They often don’t understand what they signed. It was many years ago and they went along with what they were told to sign. And when we sit down to review the documents, they find that what they signed was not what they necessarily wanted. Especially in these types of situations, a new will is probably in order.
Especially if you’ve had a bunch of changes to your family, your old will may not be relevant to your life today.
What About A Codicil?
For some people though, the will doesn’t need a lot of changes. Perhaps you just want to change a personal representative. Or maybe your brother has really been annoying you and you want to change what he gets. In these types of situations, you can use what is called a “codicil” to make a change to your will.
A codicil does not require a full redrafting of your will. You can think of it as an amendment. If you are just changing a small item, they can be a cost-effective way to make those changes.
Whether you need a codicil or a total re-drafting of your estate plan is an individual question. There’s no universal right answer other than to talk to an attorney who can give you some advice on what is best for you.