It’s your will, so you should be able to alter it if you wish. However, making handwritten changes to a will isn’t always a wise idea. Here’s why.

Can You Make Handwritten Changes to a Will?

Keeping your will up-to-date is very important. Whether you want to add a new family member or new assets to your will, it’s best to make those changes as soon as possible. 

But even if you meet with your estate planning attorney on a regular basis, at some point you might need to make an urgent update. In that case, you might want to reach for a pen, but wait—handwritten changes to a will do not always hold up in court.

Here’s how to change your will the right way. 

Handwritten Changes to a Will—Are They Legal?

Because the state of Arizona recognizes handwritten wills as valid, handwritten changes to a will can be valid as well. However, altering your will by hand is risky.

First and foremost, any handwritten changes you make must meet the legal requirements for holographic wills in Arizona. No witnesses are required, but the changes must meet the following criteria:

  • The changes must be written in your own hand.
  • You must sign the changes with your full name.
  • You must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind.

But even if your changes meet all the legal requirements, there are still some major risks involved. For example, handwritten changes could invalidate the entire will in other states. If you move to a state that does not recognize handwritten wills, you could put your entire estate in jeopardy.

Handwritten changes can also be contested in court. Since all wills have to go through probate, a judge must evaluate your changes and decide whether or not they are valid. If there are any disagreements about the handwritten alterations, it will be up to the judge to decide who inherits.

How to Change a Will the Right Way

If you need to make some changes, you don’t have to alter your existing will or draft a whole new one. Instead, you can create a codicil that state the changes you wish to make. This is best for making minor changes like adding a name or a new asset. 

Writing Handwritten Codicil

You can make a handwritten codicil, but in addition to following the rules for holographic wills, it must meet an additional set of requirements. A handwritten codicil must also:

  • State that it is a codicil to your will.
  • State the date that your current will was signed.
  • State the parts of the will that you are changing, and describe those changes in detail.

Working with an Estate Planning Lawyer

But hand-writing a codicil to a will can be just as risky as making handwritten changes on the actual document.

By far, the best course of action is to create a codicil with some help from an estate planning attorney. With their guidance, you won’t have to worry about whether or not your will meets all the legal requirements. And if you need to make some major changes, they can help you draft a new will and witness it for you.

Does a Codicil Need to Be Notarized?

In Arizona, a codicil does not have to be notarized in order to be valid. However, it must be witnessed and signed by two people, just like when originally writing the will.

Expert Estate Planning in the Phoenix Area

At Phelps LaClair, we are always happy to make time for our clients. If you feel like the situation is urgent, we can see you right away. We can help you draft a codicil or a new will and ensure that it is legal and valid. 

If you need to make changes to your will, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash used with permission under the Creative Commons license for commercial use 8/23/2023.

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