Hopefully, you have executed a Last Will and Testament. If you have, and you later decide to change something in it, or revoke it altogether, can you simply write in the changes or write the words “revoked” on the document? The answer is a resounding “no.” Because people so frequently do this with other legal documents it is important to know why you need to be careful writing on your Last Will and Testament.
In today’s “Do It Yourself” world, people are often tempted to DIY legal documents as well. In some cases this is perfectly acceptable; however, estate planning is not one of them. While it may be tempting to try and make changes to your Last Will and Testament by simply crossing out and writing in the changes, doing so will likely not have the intended effect. In fact, it will likely have no effect at all other than causing your estate to get caught up in costly and time consuming litigation.
There is a reason the law requires you to execute your Will in front of disinterested witnesses. Your Will is not presented to a court for probate until after your death. Clearly, you are no longer able to attest to the validity of the document presented to the court. Therefore, the court relies on witnesses to confirm that you did, indeed, sign the document and that you were in your right mind when you signed it should there ever be a question. Though signing in front of witnesses does not prevent all challenges to your Will, it does prevent the allegation that the signature is not yours.
Writing on a Will after execution of the document, however, cannot be verified as your handwriting – at least not easily. There is simply no way for a court to be sure that you crossed out something, wrote in something, or even attempted to revoke the document after execution. Therefore, most courts will simply ignore any writing on a Will that occurred after the document was signed in front of witnesses.
There are relatively simple ways to amend, or even revoke, a Last Will and Testament; however, you should not try to do it yourself. Take the time to consult with your estate planning attorney to ensure that whatever changes you wish to make are made correctly.
If you have additional questions or concerns about amending or revoking an existing Last Will and Testament, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.