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I Have A Will, Why Should I Change It?


Experience teaches that the only constant in life is change. Your will should always be tailored to your current family and financial situation, not the one facing you five years ago or maybe even just last year.

So, How Do I Know When I Need To Change My Will?

The short answer is whenever your life changes enough that the old will no longer reflects your current wishes or circumstances. There are events that may occur in your life that should indicate it is time to revisit your will.


Here are some common life events that should indicate it is time to make a new will and review the rest of your estate plan, including beneficiary designations for insurance policies, bank accounts, and retirement accounts.

  • Marriage: You and your new spouse should create new wills when you get married, especially when there are children from previous marriages. In most states, your spouse is legally entitled to claim a percentage of your property after you die, this can be as much as half of your estate. If you don't want to leave up to half of your property to your spouse, you need to include a written agreement to the contrary. This includes married same-sex couples.

  • Divorce: In most states, a final judgment of divorce (or an annulment) revokes any gift made by your will to your former spouse. But in some states, it doesn't. No matter where you live, you should make a new will after a divorce.

  • Birth or Adoption of a Child: You will want to make a new will to name a personal guardian for your newest family member. A personal guardian is the person you want to raise your child in the unlikely event that both you and the other parent become unavailable. You should also name a conservator to manage the child’s property until they are old enough to do it themselves.

  • New Stepchildren: Unless you legally adopt stepchildren, they have no right to inherit from you in most situations. If you want to leave them a share of your property, you should adjust your will.

  • Acquisition or disposal of substantial assets, such as your home: If you leave all of your property to one or more people or organizations, there is no need to change your will as you acquire and dispose of your wealth.

    However, if you have made specific gifts of property that you no longer own, you will likely want to change your will to avoid leaving the intended beneficiaries out in the cold.
    • If you no longer own the property, it is likely that the beneficiaries will not get anything in lieu of it.
    • Likewise, if you obtain new property and you want to leave it to someone specific, you need to change your will to make your wishes clear.

  • Change of Mind: Perhaps you have decided to remove someone from your will. Or,  you may have decided to add beneficiaries leaving a share of your property to someone else or to your church or a charity. In this event you will need to create a new will.


There are two ways to modify a will. One is to add a "codicil" to it, the other is to make a new will.

  • A codicil is a sort of legal "P.S." to the will, revoking part of it or adding a provision, such as a new gift of an item of property.
    • Simple codicils made sense in the era of typewriters, when creating a brand-new will was a hassle, but today they are normally a poor idea.
      • Codicils can create confusion and sometimes even conflict between your heirs.
      • They must be dated, signed, and witnessed just like a will.

  • A new will replaces previously written wills. In the age of the word processor, it is usually just as easy to make a new will as it is to add a codicil.
    • In the new will, you revoke your old one by including a simple statement, "I revoke all wills and codicils that I have previously made." It is also a good idea to gather all copies of your old will and destroy them.


Do not forget that much of your property is probably “non-probate” and will pass outside the terms of your will. For example, individual retirement accounts, joint or payable-on-death bank accounts, stocks registered with a transfer-on-death form, and life insurance proceeds go directly to the beneficiaries you've named. Your will has no effect on them. If you've changed your mind about who you want to inherit these kinds of property, you'll need to change the documents on which you named the beneficiary.

If you have a revocable trust and want to change its terms, you can add an amendment to the original document. Unlike a will, you do not usually revoke a trust and start over if you want to make a change.


Every three to five years is recommended, however keep in mind that certain events in your life may require that you review your estate plan sooner. A review every year would not be too often.

If you would like to change your will or create your first will, contact Kraft Walser Law Office.
Olivia 320-523-1322 | Hutchinson 320-587-8150 | Stewartville 507-533-0325 | Cokato 320-286-2396 | Renville 320-523-1322

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