Often times I have clients tell me they have a Will that was prepared years ago and it is no longer valid. My response to them is that a Will is generally valid unless it is revoked. The fact a Will was prepared years ago does not automatically make a Will invalid. A Will can be revoked by destroying the Will with the intent and purpose of revoking it or by signing a new Will. If the Will has not been torn up or cancelled by other means, it is likely still valid. It is important to know that Washington law requires that any person having custody or control of any Will, must deliver the Will to the personal representative or the court having jurisdiction upon being notified of the death of the testator, so that prior Will could very well end up being carried out. That said, it is very important to review your Will and update it if it no longer reflects your wishes.
A good rule of thumb is that you should review your estate plan every 3 – 5 years or when there is a significant change in your life. You should consider whether you have had any changes in your family, such as births, deaths, marriages, or divorces. You should also consider whether your financial situation has significantly changed. Bottom line, you need to decide whether your estate plan, which includes your Will, still accurately sets forth your wishes as to who will receive your property at your death and who will carry out your wishes.
If you find you have had changes since your Will was prepared or since the last update, you may benefit by sitting down and with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine if it needs adjusting.
Your Will can be adjusted in two ways, by signing a Codicil to your Will or by signing a new Will. A Codicil is a supplement to your Will that explains, modifies or revokes a Will or part of one. Once you and your attorney decide what updates are necessary, your attorney will advise you whether a Codicil or a new Will is the best method for your updates.