How Do I Change My Will?

One changes the provisions of one’s Will by making revisions and executing them with Will formalities.  Generally, one tells her lawyer what changes she wants, the lawyer makes those changes, and then the testator and witnesses meet, sign the Will, attestations, and affidavit.  In the past, a codicil, which was executed with the same formalities as the Will original, would make effective amendments to a Will.  Codicils are seldom used in current legal practice.

It is just as important to know how one cannot change his Will.  In Washington, one cannot effectively change his Will by marking out sections of an executed Will and writing in the changed provisions.  A court would likely accept the revocations on the original Will, but ignore the interlineated changes.  That is because holographic Wills are not valid in Washington.  The revised language would lack the signature of witnesses and, being in the testator’s handwriting, would constitute a holograph, and so be invalid.  The result of scratching out sentences and writing in others on your executed Will is likely to be jibberish.

Further, one cannot legally designate personal property as gifts to friends or family by putting post-its on items with the names of persons written on them.  Nor can one change one’s Will by making a video of desired changes, telling one’s child of desire changes, or putting a letter with the Will original.

Will executions carry a lot of medieval history with them.  The formalities may not make much sense today, but neither are they likely to disappear any time soon.