How to Revise Your Will?
Making a will is always advisable when you have assets and properties that you would like to distribute to your heirs and dependants after your death in a manner suited to your likes and preferences. Making a good and legally valid will can help avoid a lot of bickering, heart-burns and painful litigation. (If you want to know how to make a new will please read: How to Make a Will?)
A will, once made, is not a rigid and irrevocable document. There are numerous reasons and circumstances that may trigger the need for changing a will and the procedure, fortunately, is not complicated at all.
Why would anyone need to change a will?
Normally people think of writing a will when they have advanced in age, as the thought of approaching death sinks in. This may happen after a serious illness, a heart attack, an accident or after some disturbing developments in the family related to properties and money. A person, after writing the will, may perhaps remain hale and healthy for long and many subsequent developments in his life could make the original will lose its significance or its focus.
The reasons could be
- The person getting divorced and remarried
- Death of the life-partner, son/ daughter or any other beneficiaries in the original will
- Acquiring new properties or wealth
- Loss or selling off of existing properties and assets
- Disinheritance of children after a family feud or rapprochement with erstwhile relations
- Birth of new children / adoption of a child
- Change of mind about your original allocations etc.
How do you change your will?
There are two ways:
One is by adding an amendment: You can add an amendment to your original will (this is known as a codicil) and attach it with your original will. The writing of the codicil too requires similar conditions as applicable to writing a new will (This is discussed later in this article).
Where the changes in your original will are not too elaborate or too complicated, adding the codicil is much simpler. You don't have to go through the elaborate listing out of the properties, their reference numbers etc, which you would have done originally, taking lot of time and effort .
The second way is by writing a fresh will
You can revoke the old will and write a fresh one. You simply write a totally new will and add a sentence prominently in it stating "I hereby revoke all earlier wills written by me..". After completing the procedure or writing the new will fully, you should destroy the previous will totally (all pages and all the annexure to it) by tearing off, shredding or burning. In case you have kept any copies of the previous will, make sure to destroy them too.
Whether you are adding a codicil or writing a fresh will, you have to ensure that the essential procedural formalities are taken care of:
- It must be in written (or typed, word-processed) and duly signed by you in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses should be able to testify that you are mentally competent to write the will (in case of any litigation in future).
- It must contain your personal details like name, full address, marital status, occupation etc
- It must contain the name and addresses of the two witnesses whose signatures must be made in the will in your presence. The witnesses should not be beneficiaries in your will.
- In case the will is to be executed under the supervision of executors and trustees, their names and other particulars should be stated.
Some FAQs about changing the will
1) How many times can I revoke my will?
Any number of times. Each time the above said procedures should be followed.
2) What will happen if I forgot to destroy my old will?
As long as you have written the clause "I revoke" in your new will, there is not much to worry. Once revocation is clearly stated, as per law, the latest will is the effective one.
3) What if the revocation statement has not been included?
Then there is going to be trouble. Both the wills become valid. Whatever conflicting clauses appearing in both wills would need interpretation and implementation. But assuming that the new will is totally contradictory to the old will, then whatever the new will contains will become legally valid.
In general, clauses given in the new will would take predominance.
An example: You have gifted your farm land in the village to your daughter and the apartment in the city to your son in your original will. In the revised will, you have donated the farm land to a charity and said nothing about the flat. You have forgotten to put the revocation clause in the new will, nor have you destroyed the old will.
If a dispute is raised by your daughter based on the original will, she stands to lose the farm land, since the new will clearly states that it is meant for the charity. Your son will get the flat by virtue of the original will, since nothing is stated specifically about it in the new will!
To conclude, the best course of action in changing a will would be to write a new one, clearly stating the revoking of the earlier one and physically destroying the old one.