Are Handwritten Notes on Will Effective?
I’m a decades-long widow. My children (kindergarten then, 40+ years old now) have made me a happy G-Ma! My trust and will were written way back in the 1980s and need updating, BUT oops, my review shows that I jotted down personal notes, scratch outs and corrections on the will’s margin! (With age comes wisdom…finally.). I’ve read that it’s not recommended to write an amendment for a will and handwritten changes are unacceptable. What should I do with this mess?
That’s right. The handwritten notes may not be followed since any amendment to a will must signed with the formalities of the original will. They also could lead to disagreements if they’re ambiguous or some people want to follow them and others don’t. On the other hand, if everyone is on the same page, they may follow your notes even if they’re not legally enforceable. But I wouldn’t rely on that. You’re best option would be to execute a new, up-to-date will. It will ensure your wishes are carried out and that the probate process runs smoothly.
You could keep your original will and execute an amendment, known as a “codicil,” but a brand new will would be a lot cleaner and easier to administer. When there’s a codicil, anyone trying to interpret it must keep going back and forth between the codicil and the original will to see which is applies in each instance. In addition, your original will may be hard to read with your notes and scratch-outs. It’s best to start fresh and, in fact, will be easier to draft since, again, the person drafting it won’t have to keep going back and forth to check on which aspects of the old will should be preserved and which amended.