Changing a New York Will

At some stage you may wish to change the contents of your Will. How is this best achieved? Do you need a lawyer?

There are two methods of changing a New York Will: a codicil or simply making a new Will.

Writing a Codicil

Firstly, what is a codicil? The legislation provides the following definition:

“a supplement to a will, either adding to, taking from or altering its provisions  or  confirming  it  in  whole  or  in  part  by republication, but not totally revoking such will.”

A codicil is another document that you need to create. It needs to be signed and witnessed in the same manner as a Will. The document makes references back to the specific paragraphs or clauses of your Will and makes the appropriate amendments. Alternatively, it may add additional clauses. Due to its technical nature, it is best created by a lawyer.

There are downfalls with using this method to change your Will. These include:

  • two documents need to be admitted to probate;
  • both forms need to comply with the witnessing and execution requirements;
  • interpreting your wishes from two papers can be confusing.

For these reasons, not many people opt for changing a New York Will using a codicil, especially when the legal costs are virtually the same as creating a new Will.

Making a New Will

Another method of altering a New York Will is to revoke it and make a completely fresh new Will. You need to ensure the proper revocation method is used, depending on your desired outcome (see revoking your New York Will).

By drawing up a new Will, there is only one document to probate and interpret. This way your intentions are clear and (hopefully) unambiguous.

Important Reasons for Changing a New York Will

People amend their Last Will and Testament for varied reasons, especially when they experience life changing circumstances. There are events which especially call for an update in your Will, including:

  • getting married. Your old Will is not cancelled by marriage. This means if you don’t change your Will after getting hitched, your spouse ends up with only a minimal share of your estate;
  • getting divorced. Even though divorce cancels provisions benefiting your spouse, the remainder of your old Will still remains in effect. It’s time to make a change;
  • having or adopting a child. If the child isn’t mentioned in the Will, he/she may be entitled to a greater share than you’d like. Time to update the Will.

Whatever the reason behind changing a New York Will, always make sure you comply with the formal requirements. An attorney can best advise which approach to take. If you wish to make the change yourself, there are sample codicil forms available to help you out.


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