As we’ve often said, a Will and Trust are living, breathing documents. They provide power and access to your loved ones during lifetime as well as set forth the terms for distribution of assets at death. For these reasons, your estate planning documents are often subject to change over time. You may be tempted to make handwritten changes to your Will and Trust, but this is not recommended.
The Top 3 Reasons NOT to make handwritten notes or updates to your estate planning documents:
- There are specific legal requirements which must be met: If you are unaware of these requirements or fail to meet them, it is possible that your handwritten wishes will not be legally valid and the changes you intended will not be carried out after your passing.
- Clarity over confusion: It is best practice to re-execute the entire Will or Trust (or execute a valid and properly prepared Trust Amendment) rather than cross things out or write in the margins of an existing document. These attempted changes often cause more confusion than clarity and can even invalidate the entire document.
- You may unknowingly create conflicting terms: Changing a name or a bequeathed gift in one place or another may affect the gifts intended for other beneficiaries. What appears to be a simple alteration may have a far-reaching affect.
Famous author Stephen King once said, “The scariest moment is just before you start.”
When it comes to complex legal concepts, there are many ways to do it wrong but only a few definitive ways to do it right. So, save your DIY adventures for home improvement projects and consult a competent attorney for help with your estate plan.