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What happens if you need to change your will?

Changing a will in Washington is more common than you may think. Any time you have a significant change in life circumstances, you may change your will to reflect the change. There is no penalty involved in changing a will and no limit to the number of times you can do so. In fact, it is better for everyone if you keep your will up-to-date and current because that can help prevent inheritance disputes from arising among your beneficiaries after you are gone.

According to FindLaw, there are two ways to change a will. One way is to add a codicil, a separate document detailing the additions, revocations and changes to the original. Just like the will itself, a codicil must bear the date, your signature and a witness's signature. Estate planning experts no longer recommend codicils for changes to wills because, with the advent of modern technology that allows you to write and print your will with ease, codicils are more trouble than they are worth. 

The recommended course of action is simply to write an entirely new will, as this is easier for everyone. Destroying the old will when a new one is in place is a good idea to avoid future confusion, but simply destroying a will is not enough to invalidate it. To do that, you need to include a statement in your new will revoking any previous wills and codicils.

Many of the situations requiring a new will involve adding new members to the family, whether through marriage, birth, adoption or a decision to cohabitate with a new partner. A will is of particular importance in the lattermost case as your unmarried partner does not stand to inherit unless you explicitly name him or her as a beneficiary in your will. Writing a new will is also important in case of divorce to prevent your ex-spouse from inheriting your property as though the two of you were still married. Other situations in which a new will may be desirable include the purchase of new assets, disposal of existing assets or a move to a new state with different marital property laws.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only. 

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Riach Gese Jacobs, PLLC
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