Updating Your Estate Plan: How Many Tweaks Are Too Many?
If your life or the law has changed since you signed your last will and testament (will) or trust agreement, you need to update your document. You can make updates to a revocable living trust by way of an amendment or a complete restatement of the trust agreement. An amendment updates a specific part of the trust whereas a restatement creates a new set of operating instructions for the entire trust. You might think that an amendment would cost less than a restatement, but that is not necessarily true. If you have a will, you can make small changes or updates with a codicil. You also have the option to create a new will with new instructions.
Make the Small Changes or Start Over with a New Document?
Imagine a recipe card you have used for years. If you have crossed out and replaced one or two ingredients, the card may still be readable. However, if you have altered the ingredients many times, the recipe is probably confusing. If your loved ones cannot read your instructions to determine whether to add a cup of flour or a cup of sugar, your recipe will not work. You have a fifty-fifty chance for a great dish—or a complete disaster.
The same can be said about a will or revocable living trust. Making one or two changes to a document is generally acceptable, but when revisions are numerous or comprehensive, your instructions may become confusing. The primary reason for confusion is that the old document and any new documents must be read together to understand the full instructions. For this reason, starting over with a new will or a complete restatement may serve you better.
Although codicils and amendments are generally used to make small changes and new wills or restatements are used for large ones, there is no bright-line rule for making changes to your will or trust. A general guideline is that anytime you are making more than two changes, creating a new will or restatement is probably better because it
- fosters ease of understanding and administration;
- tends to avoid ambiguity;
- reduces the amount of paperwork to retain and provide to financial institutions or parties;
- decreases the risk of misplacement;
- prevents beneficiaries from discovering prior terms; and
- provides an opportunity to include other relevant updates, such as changes in the law.
In many cases, a restatement may be even more cost-effective than amendments. This is especially true today because computer software allows estate planning attorneys to easily and efficiently create and retain documents. Fortunately, you pay for legal counseling, not typing.
Have Questions about Updating Your Estate Plan? We Have Answers
Before you decide whether to make a small change or create a new will or a trust restatement, it is important to determine whether previous changes have inadvertently altered your intent or might adversely affect the will’s or trust’s administration. We will help make your instructions clear.
Do you have questions? If so, that is normal. We can provide you with answers. Whatever your circumstances, rest assured that we can help you determine the best way to update your will or trust. Call us today and we will help ensure that your instructions are up to date and crystal clear.