Changing a Will or Trust

In many cases, testators think that their job is done once they have created a will. However, the reality is that our lives are constantly changing and there’s a good chance that by the time of a person’s death, he or she will not be in the same circumstances that he or she was in when the will was executed. For this reason, it is important to keep wills updated, so if you or a loved one was recently married, divorced, or had new children, it is critical to speak with an experienced wills and estates attorney who can ensure that your will reflects your current wishes.

Amending a Will

There are a number of situations where it may be wise to consider revisiting a will, including:

  • A recent marriage;
  • Divorce;
  • The birth of a child;
  • New stepchildren;
  • Relocating to a new state;
  • The addition or loss of certain assets; and
  • Other important changes, including a decision regarding a specific heir’s portion of the estate.

One of the simplest ways to change a will is to write a new one, although those who take this route must also be careful to revoke their previous will. There are a few general methods of revocation in Illinois, including:

  • Burning or destroying the old will;
  • Creating a will that is inconsistent with the prior will; and
  • Executing another document that declares the prior will invalid in the presence of two witnesses.

The simplest method, however, is often to include a provision in a newly executed will stating that all prior wills or codicils are revoked. Destroying prior wills can also help avoid any confusion.

A codicil in an amendment or addition to an old will, so testators who don’t want to throw out an entire will, but only want to make a few minor changes can add a new provision or revoke an old one through a codicil. Like a will, a codicil must be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses to be considered valid. Keeping codicils with the original will can help prevent any confusion or will contests, although if a codicil makes major changes to a will, it may be advisable to write an entirely new will.

Amending a Trust

Generally, it is easier to amend a trust than a will. All that is required is a signed and dated provision explaining the changes. If a grantor is attempting to add property to a trust, he or she does not even have to write a formal amendment. This is because a properly written trust already contains language giving the grantor the right to automatically include property acquired after the creation of the trust. In these cases, the grantor will just need to ensure that the new property’s title is in the name of the trust and is also listed on the schedule of assets. However, if newly acquired property is being left to a different beneficiary than the one named in the trust, or if a trust has more than one beneficiary listed, the grantor will need to draft a formal amendment. If there is more than one amendment, it’s a good idea to restate the trust in its entirety .

Contact Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law to Speak With a Dedicated Wills and Estates Attorney

If you live in or near Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Northbrook, or Skokie and have questions about amending a will or trust, please contact us by calling 847-325-5559 to schedule a consultation.

Updated as of July 2019
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