Can I Make Handwritten Modifications To My Typewritten Will?
Your typewritten Will likely reflected all your wishes when you originally signed it, but things may have changed.
It may be that you’d like to replace the executor you originally selected with another trusted family member. Or perhaps, you’ve decided that you’d like Grandma’s china to pass to your niece, rather than your nephew. And you would like your newly acquired Harley Davidson motorcycle to pass to your brother.
Because the changes seem so minor, you might consider just striking out some names, and replacing them with others. Or perhaps, you might insert a line or two in your original Will. For good measure, you might initial above the changes. That way, others would know you were responsible for the alterations and interlineations. That should work, right?
The short answer is no.
The General Rule
Alterations and interlineations a Testator makes before he or she executes a typewritten Will are valid; however, changes made after the Testator signs a Will have no effect.
Regardless of the handwritten changes the Testator makes, the Will as originally written will be admitted to probate. Unless the Testator observed all the formalities required for making a Will when he or she made the changes, the modifications will be disregarded. Additionally, if the testator makes so many interlineations that it is impossible to establish the terms of the Will as originally written, the probate court may not admit the Will to probate.
Different Rules for Holographic Wills
Note, however, that these rules do not apply to holographic Wills if there is proof that a Testator made the changes in the Testator’s own handwriting. In that case, the probate court will recognize alterations and interlineations as a valid revocation of the prior provisions and a valid disposition according to the new provisions.
How to Correctly Amend Your Will?
Signing a codicil is one option available to amend your will. A codicil simply alters certain sections in an existing Will. For example, if you’ve reconsidered who will serve as executor, or trustee, you could simply amend the Section of your will to reflect this change.
But codicils have to be signed with the same formalities as a Will. Additionally, codicils are easier to misplace (intentionally or inadvertently), especially if a testator creates multiple codicils. This may prevent the testator’s wishes from being carried out. There is also an increased chance that sections the codicil amends may conflict with other provisions in the Will, so it’s important to understand how each change affects other sections in your Will.
There are some situations where signing a codicil might be the best option; however, a new Will is often the best way to proceed. Codicils were more commonly used decades ago before word processors. A codicil made sense for making minor changes rather than rewriting or retyping the full document. However, in the age of word processing, the attorney who drafted your Will can easily make simple changes and address any potential conflicts with other provisions in your Will.
This article was originally published on June 16, 2014, and updated on March 10, 2021.