I Have a Will Already, But Just Need a Small Change – What Do I Do?
Congratulations! You’ve done your Will (hopefully with a lawyer), which means you’ve designated an Executor to attend to your affairs. You have determined who will receive your personal (tangible and real) property and your residual estate (everything else)…maybe you’ve even left money to charity. But, you did this years ago and circumstances have changed, so now what? Do you need to create and pay for a whole new Will now? Perhaps not.
A codicil is a formal document that changes specific provisions of a Will. For example, you may have determined you would like someone else to be your Executor instead of the person you originally named. A quick meeting with your attorney should allow time to discuss your requested change and for the attorney to determine the best way to accomplish that change. The attorney will subsequently formulate the proper codicil language to supersede that provision of your will. This holds true, too, for any other changes you may need.
For example, we will often assist clients who originally named their siblings as Executor or trustee but now have adult children they would prefer to handle their estate matters. Sometimes clients wish to change a specific bequest, which is often a gift in a Will of a particular sum of money and it will be revised to reflect a new recipient. We have also had clients request to change percentage apportionments to their children or to add specific gifts to grandchildren.
One of our favorite codicils incorporates a trust for pets/animals. We have assisted our clients in providing for their beloved animals via testamentary trusts, which set aside a certain amount of money for a certain amount of time and designate a trustee for the purpose of keeping track of disbursements and care. Here is an example of just such a provision:
In the event that my horse [name] survives me, I give devise and bequeath $$$ in trust for his/her care, (N.J.S.A. section 3B:31-24) to be administered by my Executor, in my Executor’s sole discretion, as follows: (1) monthly payments towards their care [enter location] including full board and basic farrier services; (2) additional payments for required Veterinary services (routine exams, vaccinations and emergency visits); until the earlier of his/her death or the expiration of two years after my death (“termination date”).
On the termination date, if [name] is still alive, I request that the Executor place him/her in [Name of Rescue Program}, with a $$$ donation, or a donation of the balance if less than $$$. Any remaining balance not used as described herein shall return to my residual estate.
When was the last time you looked at your Will to determine if it reflects your current wishes and provides for people (and pets) as you intend? We encourage you to take a look and determine if changes are needed. It may be easier and less expensive than you think.