Life is never stagnant, and the circumstances under which you wrote your original Will may have shifted over the years. Whether you’ve recently gone through a divorce, had a child, or simply had a change of heart, you have options to alter your Will at any time to suit your current wishes.
If you want to make a change to your current estate plans, here’s how to revoke or change your existing Will in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Why revoke or change a Will?
Life changes, especially larger ones, may trigger the desire to make updates to your Will. It’s crucial to periodically review your estate plan, including your powers of attorney, to ensure that your current circumstances, familial relationships, and goals are properly addressed. Reasons to change or revoke your Will may include (but are not limited to):
- New or changed relationships as a result of a divorce or re-marriage
- Death of a spouse or child
- Children are no longer minors
- Birth or adoption of a child
- Emancipation of a special needs child
- Disability of yourself or a beneficiary of your existing documents
- A newly-acquired asset including money and real estate
- Appointing a new executor
How to change a Will
Prepare a codicil
A codicil is a legal document that can be added as a supplementation to a Last Will and Testament. It can be used to change a particular part of a Will, without the need to rewrite and validate the entire document.
According to Virginia Code Section 64.2-403, a codicil, much like an original Will, is legally valid in Virginia if it is written and signed by the testator (or written by another person in front of the testator, at the testator’s direction) in the presence of two witnesses. A codicil can also be considered valid if it is written entirely in the testator’s own handwriting without any other requirements, as long as the handwriting is verified by at least two “disinterested witnesses” (i.e., individuals who will not benefit from the testator’s Will).
Codicils should be used with caution as they are often misplaced or lost by the time of death. It is best used when there is not enough time to prepare and sign an entire new Will, as long as very small or simple changes are to be made.
Make a new Will
In many cases, it’s easier and legally safer to make a new Will rather than try to make piece-meal changes to parts of your existing Will a codicil. If you have multiple codicils, it may become confusing and cause outdated wishes to be carried out upon your death, or conflict with other existing estate plans, which will cause headaches for your loved ones during the probate process.
How to revoke a previous Will or codicil
All codicils and Wills can be revoked at any time before death, per Virginia Code Section 64.2-410, but the proper processes must be followed. A full revocation of an existing Will can occur by destroying your older Will by shredding it or burning it up. Or writing VOID on every page of your Will. A partial revocation can be accomplished using a written Codicil or a new Will, so long as those documents indicate the intention to revoke (partially or fully) the prior Will. Any written Codicil or Will should be signed before at least two witnesses and, where possible, a notary public.
Get help changing or revoking your Will
Need to update your estate plans? Contact the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor to schedule a complimentary consultation. We have over 20 years of experience helping Northern Virginia residents prepare Wills, trusts, and other legal documents to secure their families’ futures.