Can I Change My Will After It’s Created in Virginia?

Establishing a will is an important way to protect your family and prevent confusion and difficulties after your death. You can use a will to allocate your property, name a guardian for minor children, and designate the person you want to be in charge of your final affairs.

Because these decisions can be so important, they intimidate many people, and for that reason, they put off the process of creating a will. They are often worried that once they execute a will, the terms are set and cannot be changed. However, in most cases, you can change your will, and in fact, it is a good idea to review the terms with your attorney every few years to see if updates are necessary due to changes in the law or in your family or personal circumstances.

When You are Allowed to Change Your Will

A will does not take effect until after the creator–often referred to as the testator—passes away and the will is admitted to probate court. That means your will is a document that you can change at any time. The one requirement is that you must be legally competent and able to understand what you are undertaking at the time you change your will. If you are legally incapacitated for a time due to injury or illness but you later regain capacity, you can alter any of the terms in your will.  

How to Change Your Will

Virginia law gives you two different options for changing your will. You can have your attorney create a codicil, which is a document that is specifically designed to add to or amend the terms of an existing will. The other option is to revoke the existing will and create a new one.

While it may seem like it would be easiest to create a codicil to change your will, it is often better to create a new will for a number of reasons. First, if the will becomes separated from the codicil, you could end up with incomplete plans. The codicil on its own would not be legally valid, and the will without the codicil would lack the key changes you wanted to implement.

In addition, when you have two separate documents, it is possible that people could misunderstand how the terms work together. Your changes might not take effect—or they might be interpreted in a way that changes some factors that you meant to remain the same. However, creating a new will provides you with the opportunity to review other key terms to see if updates would be advisable.

Your new will should be written in a way that expressly revokes the old will to avoid any confusion in the future. You can also revoke a will by cutting it up, crossing out the terms or your signature, or taking other deliberate actions that indicate your intent to revoke the terms of the document. To avoid potential confusion, it is a good idea to work with your attorney when revoking a will as well as when creating a new one.

Regular Review of Your Will and Other Estate Planning Documents

Your will and other estate planning documents are prepared based on your needs as anticipated at one moment in time. However, life can change with incredible speed. In the time since you created your will, you may have added members to the family. The person you designated as guardian or executor may have passed away or may no longer be prepared to manage the responsibilities. People change, relationships change, and financial situations change, so your will may need to be changed to keep up. 

In addition, Virginia estate planning laws can change as well. The bottom line is that it is a good idea to meet with your estate planning attorney regularly to review your documents and see whether you need to make some updates.

Review and Change Your Will with the Help of Jennifer Porter, PLLC

Your will provides the final instructions for your loved ones, and it is important to ensure that includes the right terms to guide disposition of your assets and designation of authority when you are no longer around to explain your preferences.

At Jennifer Porter, PLLC, we can help you change or create a Virginia will that is tailored to your specifications. We work with you to ensure you understand your options and the ramifications of each choice so you can make informed decisions. To ensure your loved ones are protected, schedule a consultation with us today by contacting us online or calling (571) 532-9070.