Pencil Me In: Can You Just Handwrite Changes to Your Will or Trust on the Original Document?

We all know that life changes. Constantly. Sometimes instantly. So it makes sense that at some point you might want to make changes to your Last Will and Testament (“Will”) or Revocable Living Trust (“Trust”). But can you just grab your Will or Trust and a ballpoint pen and cross out what no longer applies and write in your changes?


But what if you initial those changes?


Ok, but what if you initial and date them and have someone witness your handwritten changes?

NO, NO, NO!!

Here’s the thing that many people who scribble changes on a Will or Trust in the margins just don’t fully appreciate: these are formal legal documents.  To be legal, (hence valid and effective), Wills  and Trusts must be created in a manner that conforms to the law.

In Florida, for example, for a Will to be validly created, it must:

  • Be in writing, and
  • Signed by the Testator at the end, and
  • It must be signed by the Testator in the presence of 2 witnesses.

When a Will does not comply with all the required formalities, not only is it not effective to pass on a decedent’s property, it can cost everyone a lot of time and money litigating in court exactly what should happen to the decedent’s property and who should get it.

In the same way that the creation of a Will or Trust must comply with certain formalities, to be valid, any changes to a Will or Trust must also comply with certain formalities.

The Right Way to Change Your Will or Trust.

The law does allow you to make changes to your Will or Trust.

So long as you modify, amend, or change your Will or Trust properly.

Generally speaking, a revocable Trust  can be amended or revoked.

A Will can be changed or amended by a codicil – which must be executed with all the same formalities as the Will.

In our practice, we generally advise clients to simply to execute a new Will or an Amended and Restated Trust in order to make any desired changes. This makes the instrument far easier to read, and it makes administering the estate more efficient if there is only one operative document.

There is a lot more to know and understand about the right way to change your Will or Trust. If you have questions or would like to know more, speak to an experienced trusts and estates counsel.

 Protecting Your Family is Just a Phone Call Away.

Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to SJF Law Group to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well.  When you work with the estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected] today.

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