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If you had a will drafted several years ago, you may have had several major life changes occur since then. Life happens, right? Maybe you got divorced, or maybe a previously favored niece that you were leaving a lot of property to has fallen out of favor with you. You know you want to change your will, but how do you do it?

There are two options for updating a will - draft an entirely new will or create an amendment to your existing will, known as a codicil. Both of these options will require your signature and the signature of two witnesses.

If you have only a few minor changes, you could create a codicil. This is like a "p.s." to your will. You should write down what you want to change about your will (either additions or deletions), sign it, and have two witnesses sign it. You should keep it attached to, or nearby, your existing will. After your death, the two documents would be read together.

Either you can have a lawyer draft your codicil or you can do it yourself. It's better to have a lawyer do it because there are some problems associated with doing it yourself. Errors are often made with the language used in the drafting if you draft it yourself, and with improper execution (signing) and witnessing of the codicil. It's better to have a lawyer do it because the lawyer will know what to include from a legal standpoint and ensure that the execution complies with New Jersey law. What may seem insignificant to you can actually be very important from a legal standpoint.

The second option is drafting a new will. The new will takes precedence over your old will if drafted, signed, and witnessed properly. Again, it's best to have a lawyer draft your new will because your lawyer will know the appropriate language that needs to be included to revoke your old will and take care of proper execution. It's also best to destroy your old will to reduce the chances of confusion.

When life happens, make sure that your will appropriately and legally records the changes.

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Smith & Gaynor, LLC
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Morristown, NJ 07960

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