Drafting a last will and testament allows you to decide how you want your assets divided among your heirs after you've died. In Texas, the requirements for making a will are outlined in Chapter IV of the Probate Code. Should you choose to revise an existing will, you can make any necessary changes simply by adding a properly prepared addendum.
When to Use an Addendum
An addendum, also known as a codicil, is a legal document that allows you to modify an existing will without revoking it in its entirety. In Texas, you can use an addendum to delete portions of your will that may no longer be relevant, change how your assets will be distributed, exclude previously named heirs, add new heirs, change your will's executor, include any new assets that you acquire or remove any property that you no longer own or do not want included in the will.
Witness It Like Your Original Will
Under Texas law, addendums and codicils must meet the same legal requirements as your original will. This means you must be a legal adult of sound mind and the document must be witnessed by at least two other individuals. The addendum should reference the execution date of your existing will and be specific about what information is being changed. Once the codicil is written, you and your witnesses need to sign and date it. You'll also want to include a self-proving affidavit – a separate document that you and your witnesses must sign attesting to the will's validity.
When It's Easier to Write a New Will
If you're planning significant changes to your existing will, adding multiple codicils may not be practical. Instead, you may want to consider revoking the will in its entirety. Chapter IV, Section 63, of the Texas Probate Code specifies that you can revoke your will by writing a new one and destroying the original or having someone else destroy it in your presence. If you want to revoke your will without writing a new one, you can draft a written declaration stating your intent. The declaration must be signed and dated by you and your witnesses, and you'll need to destroy any copies of the will.
Traps for the Unwary
Writing directly on your existing will or simply crossing things out is not an effective way to add an addendum. Upon your death, the probate court could choose to throw out any handwritten changes, which means your wishes won't be honored. If you're not comfortable drafting the addendum on your own, you can hire an estate planning attorney to help you. If you've established a trust in addition to a will, you may need to update it to reflect any changes included in your addendum.
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