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What are the steps to revoking or changing wills?

With the start of a new year, many New Jersey residents are examining their estate plans and determining if changes need to be made. One factor that must be considered is revoking a will before putting a new will into effect. There are many times when this is a sound idea. Examples include significant life changes such as a marriage, a divorce, the birth of a child, or a major change in a portfolio. Knowing the steps to take to revoke or change a will is important to ensure that the new will supersedes the old one and everything is legal.

It might sound simplistic, but the testator destroying the will is a reasonable way to formulate a new one. This can be done by tearing it up, burning it, shredding it, or using other means to eliminate it. The individual can destroy his or her own will or another person can do it at the testator's request while in his or her presence. Crafting a new will is vital after destroying the old one. When the will is executed, there should be a notation that prior wills are revoked in the event there is any confusion even if the previous will was destroyed.

To change a will that is in place, the new will be referred to as a codicil. This is the same as creating an entirely new will because it has changes that the testator wants made without destroying the old will entirely. This can add or remove beneficiaries, make changes as to which heirs get what and more. The codicil is essentially an amendment or an addition to the will. It must be signed, dated and witnessed just as the original will was. Codicils are not used as much as they were before computers and printers came into widespread use as it can lead to confusion, so those who are considering changes might want to simply revoke the old will and write a new one.

With estate planning, there are often disputes among the heirs about inheritances and decisions on the part of the testator to make changes. These changes can be small or large. Regardless of the size of the estate, having legal advice for the formulation or changes to wills is crucial. A legal professional experienced in wills or any other estate planning documents can be of help.

Source: estate.findlaw.com, "How to Revoke a Will," accessed on Jan. 2, 2018

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