How Wills Work

Changing and Challenging Wills

It's perfectly legal for wills to be changed. Circumstances often change after the initial will is drafted, and it's up to the testator to make sure that the final will goes along with his or her wishes. The testator is the only person legally allowed to change his or her own will.

Most changes to wills are commonplace and easy to make. Some reasons you may want to change your will are if you have a baby or get married or divorced. You may also want to change your will if your executor or beneficiaries die, tax laws change in your favor, or if there's a considerable change in your assets.

Aside from these reasons, there's always the case of a testator that wishes to make major changes in how his or her assets are divided. A family member might fall out of favor, or the testator may simply feel philanthropic and decide to give his or her money to charity.

In order to change your will, you can either draft a new one that revokes the previous will, or add a codicil to the existing will. The codicil is a separate document that legally amends the existing will. These days, attorneys are able make changes in the computer file so the will can be updated with minimal cost attached. Changes should be executed by a professional to guarantee that they're accurate and binding.

Wills can be contested in probate, but only by persons of legal standing. The laws for legal standing vary by state, but it typically means an individual either included in the will, or one that should have been included in the will. Wills can't be challenged on the grounds of the fairness. They're usually challenged for the following reasons:

  • The will is forged.
  • The testator wasn't of sound mind when the will was drafted.
  • The will didn't meet the requirements of the state.
  • The testator was coerced into making the provisions.
  • The testator was a victim of fraud.
  • The beneficiary doesn't approve of the executor.

Wills can be found partially or fully inadmissible in probate. If the will is fully rejected, it's thrown out and the court gives away the assets as if the deceased died without a will. If partially rejected, probate abides by certain requests and rules on the others. Contesting a will is a very expensive, long process and as long as the will was drafted under the legal terms of the state, the challenge is seldom successful.

In the next section, we'll look at some more components of a last will and testament.