If you are like most, you hope that your family will honor your wishes after you pass. That includes following any instructions to leave behind regarding your estate. In an ever-changing world, some circumstances may arise where you need to make room in your life for a new grandchild or treasured non-profit organization. You may wish to change your will to meet new challenges for you and your family.
How to Change Your Will While You’re Alive
You can modify your will while you are alive. The law respects the intent of the creator of the will (the “testator”), and if while that person is of sound mind, they decide to make changes, the law allows this through something called a codicil. Through the codicil, you can make addendums, remove part of the will or revoke it completely to allow you to start over.
The codicil should be legally sound as the original will. It must meet the same legal requirements (witnessed, signed). It should contain language that recognizes the existence of the original will or any other codicils that exist. The codicil should note specifically how it modifies the original will. For example, if it changes the primary beneficiary or excludes a specific family member. You can “stack” codicils, as well.
Revoking a Will to Start Fresh
You can make any changes to your original will; however, it may be better as a practical matter to revoke the original will and start from scratch. The act of destroying the original will in some way is enough to indicate to the law that the testator intends to revoke its contents. It will be difficult for anyone to come later and demand that the original will be recognized because they would have to show the specific content of the will in court with witnesses unless they can show a copy. You can also revoke the original will through a codicil.
Like a will, a codicil should be drafted in accordance with the Florida law. You should consult an experienced lawyer to help with the process. Speak with them regarding your goals for your family and how changing the will can help you meet those goals. Your attorney can then draft a sound document that can withstand legal challenges should they arise.
Challenges to Change a Will After You Have Passed
While it is relatively easy for the testator to change their will while they are alive, it is difficult for beneficiaries to challenge the will of a decedent. Only a person with “standing” can challenge the execution of a will. A person with standing can be someone who is an “interested person,” someone who is named in the will as a beneficiary, an heir, a creditor or someone who stands to gain or lose some benefit if the will is modified.
Some wills may include a “no-contest” clause. It’s a clause meant to keep a beneficiary from challenging the will. If a person tries to contest the will, that person will forfeit everything. Florida courts don’t recognize these clauses considering them to be unconscionable.
The person wishing to challenge a will must go to probate court to initiate the process. You’ll need to hire a lawyer to represent you. There are a few grounds on which you and your attorney can challenge a will, granted that you have standing to file a case.
Testamentary Capacity – You may challenge a will arguing that the testator was not “of sound mind.” You may argue they were infirm or suffering from senility or dementia when they created the document. This would have prevented them to know what their assets were really worth or knowing exactly who they were making beneficiaries or even what it means to create a will at the time they made it.
Undue influence – You can challenge the will by alleging that someone else tricked the testator, taking away their free will to make a sound decision.
Subsequent wills – The will the court is preparing to execute might be an older will, and you may be aware of a more recently created will. The most recently created document is deemed to be the will that truly speaks to the testator’s wishes.
Get Help Changing a Will From an Experienced Estate Attorney
Whether you seek to change your will while alive or challenge a will you feel is invalid or inequitable, you will need the assistance of a good estate law attorney like our lawyers at the France Law Firm. Deciding how to set up family and friends for a secure future is our business. We will speak with you to gain an in-depth understanding of how you would like your family to prosper and do our best to help them get there. Contact us today to find out how we can help.