It’s a smart idea to begin estate planning early. Hopefully, you won’t need that estate plan for many years to come. In the meantime, lots of things can change and you may find yourself wanting to make changes to your will along with them. Before you get out a red pen, however, you should know the requirements for making changes.
While some states recognize handwritten changes, Wisconsin generally does not. The main reason for this is because handwritten changes are often challenged in court—anybody could have written on the will after the fact. Instead, you should contact your estate planning attorney to draft a codicil. A codicil is a legal document with the same formal requirements as your will, such as signatures and dates and witnesses.
If you plan to make a lot of changes, it may be better to revoke your will and make a new one. There are several ways to do that, but the best way is to physically destroy the old will (usually by tearing it up) in the presence of witnesses. Then have your lawyer draw up a new will and make sure you follow the formal requirements.
Whether you’re adding a codicil or making a new will, it’s always a good idea to discuss the change and your reasons with the people it affects. Beneficiaries are far more likely to challenge something in your will that comes as a surprise. Making your loved ones aware of the decision also reduces the likelihood they’ll accidentally produce a copy of your old will, which can only lead to confusion.
You should periodically review your estate plan to make sure it still reflects your wishes. If you need to make changes, take the time to do them the right way.