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Updating a Will 101

How often should I update a Will?

The frequency with which you should update your Will depends on the changes in your life circumstances. While there’s no set rule for how often a Will should be updated, it’s advisable to review and potentially revise it after significant life events. Some of these events include:

  • Marriage or Divorce: These events can significantly change how you might want to distribute your assets. A new spouse may not automatically be entitled to your assets, especially if there are children from a previous relationship involved.
  • Birth or Adoption of a Child: To ensure that your children are taken care of and receive their inheritance as you intend, you should update your Will whenever there’s an addition to your family.
  • Death of a Beneficiary or Executor: If someone named in your Will passes away, you’ll need to update the document to reflect a new beneficiary or appoint a new executor.
  • Acquisition or Disposal of Significant Assets: If you acquire property, start a business, or sell a significant asset, it’s essential to update your Will to reflect these changes.
  • Changes in the Law: Tax and estate laws can change. It’s crucial to review your Will periodically to ensure it remains compliant and beneficial in light of current laws.
  • Relocation: If you move to a different state or country, the laws governing Wills and estate distribution might be different, necessitating a review or revision of your current Will.
  • Change in Relationships: If your relationship with an heir or beneficiary changes, you may want to update the Will to reflect your current wishes.
  • Periodic Review: Even if there are no significant changes in your life, it’s a good practice to review your Will every few years to ensure it still reflects your current wishes and that all information is accurate.

How do you update a Will?

In conclusion, while there isn’t a strict timeline on how often you should update your Will, it’s essential to do so when significant life changes occur. Regular reviews will also help ensure that the document remains current and aligns with your wishes. Consulting with an estate planning attorney during these updates can provide clarity and confidence that your Will is both legally sound and reflective of your intentions.

Updating a will is a common practice, especially when personal circumstances change, such as marriage, birth of children, acquisition of new assets, or changes in personal relationships. Here’s how you can update a will:

  1. Codicil: A codicil is a formal, supplementary document added to the existing will to make minor changes, additions, or deletions. It should be signed and witnessed in the same manner as the original will. Using a codicil can be appropriate for straightforward changes, but if there are numerous changes, it may be clearer and cleaner to draft a new will.
  2. Draft a New Will: For substantial changes or multiple modifications, it’s often best to draft a completely new will. The new will should start with a clause stating that it revokes all previous wills and codicils. This ensures that there’s no confusion about which document represents the most recent and accurate wishes of the testator.
  3. Follow Legal Formalities: Just like with the original will, any changes, whether through a codicil or a new will, must adhere to the legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Typically, this means the document should be signed in the presence of witnesses. Some jurisdictions might also require the will or codicil to be notarized.
  4. Destroy Old Wills: Once you’re sure the new will or codicil correctly reflects your wishes and has been properly executed, it’s a good idea to destroy all copies of the old will to avoid any confusion or potential disputes in the future.
  5. Inform Your Executor: Let the executor of your will know about the changes, and provide them with a copy of the updated document. If you’ve stored your will with an attorney or in a safe deposit box, replace the old will with the updated version.
  6. Regular Reviews: It’s a good practice to review your will periodically (e.g., every 3-5 years) or after major life events to ensure it still aligns with your wishes and circumstances.
  7. Consult an Attorney: Especially if your estate is complex, involves multiple jurisdictions, or if you’re unsure about any changes, it’s advisable to consult with an estate planning attorney. They can ensure the changes to your will are legal, clear, and reflective of your intentions.

In summary, while you can amend your will with a codicil for minor changes, significant changes are often best managed by creating a new will. Always ensure that you follow the legal formalities required in your jurisdiction when making any changes.

How much does it cost to update a Will?

The cost of updating a will varies significantly based on several factors:

  1. Method of Update:
    • Codicil: If you’re making a minor change using a codicil, it might cost less than drafting an entirely new will. However, if there are several changes or if the will’s structure is affected, it could be more cost-effective to rewrite the will.
    • New Will: Drafting a new will usually costs more than a codicil but may be necessary for substantial changes.
  2. Complexity of the Changes: A simple addition or removal of a bequest might be less expensive than complex changes like setting up trusts, altering multiple provisions, or dealing with multi-jurisdictional assets.
  3. Geographic Location: Legal services tend to be more expensive in metropolitan areas compared to smaller towns.
  4. Professional Fees:
    • Do-it-yourself (DIY) Kits: There are online platforms and software products that offer DIY will kits. These can range from free to a couple of hundred dollars. However, caution is advised, as DIY solutions may not account for individual complexities or specific regional legal requirements.
    • Paralegal or Non-Attorney Services: Some non-attorney professionals might offer will-drafting services at a lower rate than attorneys. Again, it’s crucial to ensure that these services understand and adhere to local legal standards.
    • Attorney Services: If you hire an attorney, especially one specializing in estate planning, costs can vary widely based on their experience, reputation, and the complexity of your estate. As of my last update in 2021, you could expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $1,000 for a basic will, but this can increase for more complex estates or in higher-cost areas.
  5. Frequency of Updates: If you’re someone who updates your will regularly or anticipates multiple updates, some attorneys might offer a reduced rate for future revisions.
  6. Additional Documents: If you’re updating other estate planning documents concurrently, such as a Power of Attorney or a Living Will, there might be package rates available, but this could also increase the overall cost.

It’s always a good idea to get a clear understanding of fees upfront. If using an attorney, ask about their fee structure, whether they charge a flat fee or an hourly rate, and if there are any additional costs. Always balance the cost considerations with the peace of mind that comes from knowing your will accurately and legally reflects your wishes.

Doing it yourselfFree + Notarization ($30-$50)
Using an online service$15-$300+
Using a Lawyer$500-2000$+

Can I update my Will without a Lawyer?

Use a Will Kit or Online Platform: There are various DIY will kits and online platforms available that can guide you through the process of drafting or updating a will. If you choose this route, ensure the platform or kit is tailored to the laws of your jurisdiction.

As mentioned in the points above, there are a lot of things to consider doing this. However if you are sure your Will is straight-forward and simple you can easily do it on your own.

Don't have a Living Trust yet? Get started today.

It only takes a few minutes to create and can be updated easily any time with our Digital Workflow.

What is a Trust?

A Living Trust is a financial tool that lets you plan, organize, and protect your life. It’s a personal entity that allows you to add assets and plan out your inheritance. Eliminating legal battles, cost, and time spent by your loved ones. 

Think of it like a personal LLC that you put everything you own in. Except it doesn’t protect you from liability like an LLC does, it protects you from probate and conservatorship. 

Probate is the complicated court process (12-18 months) where a judge decides what happens to your assets after you die, become incapacitated, or are “deemed” incapable. Creating a living trust allows your assets to completely circumvent probate and immediately transfer to your loved ones. 

In addition to being able to name heirs (your beneficiaries), a Trust also allows you to assign someone to manage it (your successor trustee). Instead of going through probate, your Successor Trustee takes control of the Trust, handles your affairs, and distributes your assets according to your instructions. The person you select as Successor Trustee should be your most trusted person. Like a best friend or closest family member.

At Dynasty, we believe everyone should have a Living Trust. If you have children, assets, or plan to acquire assets in the future, you should create a Trust. That way when you buy your next home, open a bank or brokerage account, get startup shares, etc. – you can immediately title them in your trust.