An estate plan should be updated when there are changes in the testator’s beneficiaries, property, or family status (i.e. marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, etc.). This can be accomplished by executing a proper amendment (a codicil) to modify the existing will or by canceling (revoking) the existing will and then executing a new one. It is not advisable to update a will by writing or making changes on it because such revisions may be totally ineffective.

Be aware that a will can also be canceled to some extent if the testator is divorced after making the will. In such a case, gifts to the ex-spouse in the will, as well as appointments of the ex-spouse as executor or trustee, are void and will not be recognized. However, an ex-spouse who was designated during marriage as a beneficiary under the decedent’s life insurance policies is entitled to the life insurance proceeds upon the decedent’s death. A temporary order issued by a divorce court prohibiting a party to a pending divorce case from changing his or her will until the divorce is final is unenforceable.

The subsequent marriage of a single testator will not cancel his or her will. If a person who signs a will before marriage wishes to give all or any portion of his or her property to the new spouse, he or she should sign a new will. Otherwise, the property will pass according to the state law and provisions contained in the will that was signed before marriage, and the new spouse may receive less than the deceased spouse intended.
The Walser Law Firm can assist you with reviewing, updating and creating your will and other estate planning documents to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes.