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How Do I Amend or Revoke My Will in WA?

Mid section of businessman showing last will and testament form

A last will and testament (“will”) is a vital part of your estate plan. Your will dictates how your estate will be distributed upon your death, including all of your assets. Your will can also be used to assign a guardian for minor or disabled children, appoint an executor for your estate, and many other purposes. Your estate planning needs can and will change throughout your lifetime, however. If you need to update your will to reflect a change in circumstances, or if you want to revoke your will entirely, can you do so? How do you do it?

Read on to learn about how to modify or revoke your will in Washington State. For help with estate planning and elder planning in Washington, call a knowledgeable Vancouver estate planning attorney.

Amending a Will

There are two principal ways to change your current will: (1) amend your will by way of a codicil; (2) draft a new controlling will. To do the latter, you’ll also need to revoke the older will.

If you do not wish to completely revoke the old will, you can amend your existing will. A codicil is a document that a testator (the person creating the will) can utilize to modify their will after it has been executed. A codicil acts like an amendment or supplement to the will. The codicil can be used to amend or even partially revoke the will, such as by writing out certain beneficiaries to the will or changing to whom certain assets will be distributed.

A valid codicil has all the same requirements as executing the original will. That means it must be in writing; it must be signed by the testator (or signed in the testator’s presence and at their direction) in the presence of two competent witnesses; and the two witnesses must either sign the will or swear in front of a notary the facts needed to prove that the will belongs to the testator.

Codicils are typically attached to or otherwise stored with the principal will to avoid confusion. Because codicils already require so much legwork, however, and there’s always the potential for confusion (especially if the codicil is lost), it’s generally preferable to execute a whole new will should you wish to change provisions in your current will.

Revoking a Will and Drafting a New Will

The other way to amend your will, the preferred method, involves drafting and executing an entirely new will. If you satisfy all of the official legal requirements, whichever will was properly executed most recently will be the controlling will, unless there’s some challenge to the more recent will’s validity (such as if the testator was not of sound mind at the time the new will was drafted or executed).

In order to avoid legal challenges, it’s best to fully revoke the prior will upon executing the new will. There are two principal ways to revoke a will. The first is to draft a new will, which technically supplants the prior will. To avoid any confusion, the new will should explicitly state that it is meant to revoke any prior will, as opposed to merely amending a prior will.

The second way to revoke a will is to physically destroy the will, and any copies, by whatever means necessary. Burning, tearing, shredding, ripping out the signature, etc., are all appropriate means of destroying and therefore revoking a will. Note that you cannot simply tear out one provision of the will; destroying the will revokes the entire will. Revoking a will also revokes any codicils to that will. The destruction must be intentional to effectively revoke the will; accidentally burning or ruining the will is not a legal revocation.

Call Vancouver Attorney John Lutgens for Help Planning Your Estate in Washington State

For assistance with estate planning in Vancouver, or elsewhere throughout Washington, contact the trusted Vancouver estate planning and asset protection lawyer John Lutgens for a no-cost consultation at 360-693-2119.

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