Multiple Wills Can Create Drama Even After Death

Multiple Wills Can Create Drama Even After Death

Provided By: Alan G. Orlowsky

About two years ago, one Texas doctor created nearly as much drama after death as he did during life. Family members were shocked and dismayed to find out that the decedent had not one, not two, but four separate wills. A 2009 will named the decedent’s ex-wife as the executor of his estate, while a different will penned in 2012 named the decedent’s friend as executor. And then two more wills dated July 2013 and naming still different executors surfaced. Lawyers are now left arguing which will, if any of them, is valid and should be followed.

Properly Creating Successive Wills

As your life changes, it is only natural that your final wishes will change as well. As a young single individual, you may wish for your property to pass to your family members or some charitable cause if you were to die early. If you marry and buy a house, your new spouse will likely be the one you want to receive your property. If you have or adopt kids, you may want to create another will naming a guardian for your children if something were to happen to you and your spouse. Creating different wills is therefore a prudent move as your life situation changes.

When you make a new will, however, it is important that the new will clearly indicate that it is meant to replace your old will. Most lawyer-created wills do this by clearly indicating that the new will “supersedes any existing will or codicil” or otherwise containing clear language that you no longer want your old will to be followed. Failing to include these important terms can result in the sort of confusion the Texas doctor’s family experienced. Expensive litigation may be necessary for your heirs and beneficiaries to sort out which will is legally binding. A will that does not clearly indicate it is meant to replace a preexisting will may end up being disregarded by the court.

Do I Always Have to Make a New Will When There is a Change in My Life?

As an alternative to making a new will, you may be able to add additional instructions – or take existing instructions away – through the filing of a codicil to your will. A codicil is simply a document indicating there has been an amendment or change to an existing will. The codicil will indicate what term of the existing will you want to change and what the new, changed language should be. A codicil must meet the same formalities as a will and should clearly reference the will that it is intended to amend.

Get Help from an Experienced Illinois Trusts and Estates Lawyer

When planning your estate, the help of an experienced estate planning attorney can be invaluable in making sure your final wishes are carried out. You should keep your estate planning attorney informed of life changes and whether these changes affect your existing estate planning documents.

Whether you are just beginning the estate planning process or have existing documents that need to be amended, contact Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. We help clients in and around Lake and Cook Counties, including in Northbrook, Evanston, Skokie, Glenview, Glencoe, and Highland Park. Our experienced trusts and estates lawyers can evaluate your situation and ensure your estate planning documents do in fact carry out your final wishes as well as make it easy for your family and friends to administer your estate after your death. Contact us today at (847) 325-5559 to set up a consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys.


Updated as of July 2019
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