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Can you make handwritten changes to a will?

by | Feb 27, 2018 | Wills & Trusts

Whether you have just married or just retired, it is never a bad time to write your will. It may be uncomfortable to think about your passing, but it will become even more uncomfortable for your surviving loved ones if no document is in place saying how to divide your assets. Unfortunately, six out of every 10 Americans do not have a will in place.

Having a will already puts you ahead of most American adults, but as time goes on, you may find that your will is no longer relevant to your current living situation. A divorce, second marriage or drastic change in income can greatly impact what your will needs to do. However, you need to make sure you go about making these changes the right way.

Handwritten changes

Many people assume changing a will is as simple as writing the details within the document itself. Some courts will allow such changes as long as the handwriting is definitively the executor’s, depending on the state. However, there can be great uncertainty over whether the changes would be accepted or whether they would have any negative effects, and uncertainty is generally one of the last things you want with an estate plan. Also, such changes can be ripe for contesting. A family member who does not like the change might contest it in court, and which could lead to a lot of frustration and wasted money on your loved ones’ behalf.


If you want changes to be completely valid in court, then you’ll likely want to either make a new will from scratch or create a codicil. A codicil is essentially an amendment to an existing will. To create one of these, you need to go to an attorney and follow the same steps as when you made the will in the first place. You will need to make the necessary changes in writing, and you need to sign it. Additionally, you will need two witnesses present to watch you sign the amendments. It is best to handle these matters through the proper channels to avoid causing any harm or ill will.