Once you have an estate plan in place, you should congratulate yourself! You’ve taken an important step in “adulting” by making sure your assets are distributed pursuant to your wishes. However, sadly, you cannot rest on your laurels. Over time, people need to revise their Wills for many reasons including:
- a move to another state may necessitate a Will revision to ensure compliance with the new state’s law;
- a desire to change the named Personal Representative, Trustee of a testamentary trust, or guardian of minor children;
- the birth of a child;
- the death of someone who is prominently featured in the Will as a beneficiary or fiduciary;
- a significant increase or decrease in assets, which changes either the desired tax strategies, distributions, or both;
- a divorce or a termination of a significant intimate relationship;
- a marriage or a new significant intimate relationship;
- a desire to add a beneficiary, delete a beneficiary, or change a distribution amount;
- a need to put in a testamentary trust for a beneficiary or, perhaps, delete a testamentary trust for a beneficiary when it is no longer needed due to a change in circumstances; or
- a change in state or federal law governing the estate plan.
If you need to revise your Will, your efforts will fall well short if you attempt to handwrite and initial the changes on the original document. Any changes made to the Will must comply with all of the requirements of RCW 11.12.020. There are two ways to revise a Will:
- First, you can work with your attorney to create a codicil to your original Will. A codicil is a document that meets the requirements of RCW 11.12.020. It leaves the provisions of the original Will in place in all aspects except for those specifically mentioned in the codicil. A codicil can work well if a Will needs a straightforward, simple change, such as changing a beneficiary’s distribution from 20 percent to 25 percent of your residuary estate. Codicils can become unwieldy and confusing if they set forth extensive changes to the original Will, or if there are multiple codicils in existence.
- Second, you can work with your attorney to create a new Will. Creating a new Will is an advisable approach if a codicil proves unworkable or problematic. The new Will revokes your prior Will, replacing it in full.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to pull out your estate plan at least once every five years, review it carefully, and make sure it continues to meet your needs. If you have any questions about revising your existing estate plan, we’d be happy to help.