We all understand that life is constantly evolving. Sometimes, changes happen instantly. So it’s reasonable to assume that at some point, you may want to make alterations to your Last Will and Testament (“Will”) or Revocable Living Trust (“Trust”). However, can you simply take your Will or Trust, grab a ballpoint pen, cross out what no longer applies, and write in your changes?
The answer is no.
But what if you initial those changes?
Again, the answer is no.
Okay, but what if you initial and date them and have someone witness your handwritten modifications?
Still, the answer remains a resounding no.
Now, here’s the crucial concept that many individuals who make scribbled changes on their Wills or Trusts fail to fully appreciate: these documents are formal legal instruments. To be legally binding (and therefore valid and effective), Wills and Trusts must be created in accordance with the law.
For example, in Florida, a Will must meet the following criteria to be valid:
- It must be in writing.
- The Testator must sign it at the end.
- The Testator must sign it in the presence of two witnesses.
When a Will fails to meet all of these required formalities, it not only becomes ineffective in transferring a deceased person’s property, but it can also lead to costly and time-consuming litigation in determining the rightful recipient(s) of the assets.
Likewise, any changes made to a Will or Trust must also adhere to specific formalities in order to be recognized as valid.
The Proper Method for Modifying Your Will or Trust
Fortunately, the law does allow for modifications to be made to your Will or Trust, as long as they are done properly.
In general, a revocable Trust can be amended or revoked.
A Will, on the other hand, can be changed or amended by adding a codicil, which must follow the same formalities as the original Will.
In our practice, we typically advise our clients to execute a new Will or an Amended and Restated Trust if they wish to make any desired changes. This approach enhances readability of the instrument and streamlines estate administration by having only one operative document.
However, there is much more to learn and understand about the correct way to modify your Will or Trust. For any questions or further guidance, it is advisable to consult with an experienced trusts and estates attorney.
Trust in Garrity Traina for Your Estate Planning Needs
When it comes to securing the future of your family and loved ones, leaving things to chance is not an option. With a single phone call to Garrity Traina, you can ensure that your wishes will be followed and your loved ones taken care of after you’re gone. Our team of estate planning experts will skillfully guide you through the complex probate process and proficiently handle all aspects of trust creation, administration, and settlement. Working with Garrity Traina doesn’t just provide an estate plan; it gives you peace of mind. Contact us at Garrity Traina today.