September 9, 2013   Estate Planning

Can I Make Handwritten Changes to a Will Without an Attorney?

handwritten changes After creating a will, many people decide to update and change that will. Rather than taking the will to an attorney, some will attempt to update the will themselves. This post discusses the validity of handwritten changes to wills. It is important to remember that state law governs the creation and revision of wills. Therefore, check the laws of your particular state before making any changes to your will.
Depending on the laws of your state, the handwritten notes may qualify as a valid testamentary disposition. This is more likely to occur if the handwritten changes are entirely in the will maker’s handwriting, and are signed and dated. Conversely, a court in another state may find that the entire will is invalid based on the handwritten notes.
Despite what the laws of your state say about handwritten changes in your will, it is important to remember that such changes are ripe for challenge. If your beneficiaries challenge handwritten notes within your will, the cost of defending your will may deplete the funds in your estate. Further, it will take longer for your estate to be distributed among your beneficiaries.
If you would like to modify your will, the proper venue to do this is through a codicil. A codicil is an additional formal legal document, added to the will, through which the will maker (also known as a “testator”) can make valid changes to his or her estate plan. The testator must execute the codicil with the same formalities as were required for the will. In most jurisdictions, this involves the signature of at least one witness. Like most matters concerning estate planning, it’s essential to understand how your state law impacts the legal status of your plans, and that you make sure your planning will work as you intend when it really counts.

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