Should You Modify An Existing Will Or Revoke And Replace It?

When it comes to making changes to a will, you have two options. You can simply enter amendments into the recorder to modify it, or you can revoke the existing well and replace it with a new one.

Amending the will sounds simple, but many people are surprised to learn that attorneys often recommend complete revocation and replacement. Here is why a will attorney might recommend this and when it's okay to just make some amendments.


At first, modifying the existing will without revoking it sounds like the simpler solution. It probably is easier for you to go that route now; however, it might create a nightmare down the road.

It's critical to ensure the amendments don't create contradictions or ambiguities. This means paying for more will attorney services because a lawyer has to sort these problems out. If the terms of one amendment stand in contrast to another portion of the will, that could drive litigation. The seemingly simple solution suddenly becomes more complex.


When you revoke a will, every bit of it ceases to exist. Generally, your will attorney is the only person besides you with a copy of the document. When you revoke the previous will, they will destroy the previous documents to ensure you don't accidentally leave multiple wills.

Bear in mind, it's usually fairly easy to copy the components of the old will. You'll go over the old document with a will attorney. They will note which terms you want to keep and discard everything else. You can then write the terms into the newest version of the document.

When Amendments Are Okay

Generally, a will attorney never wants to make amendments unless they're sure the amendments can't create problems. Suppose the executor of your will dies. There's no compelling reason to assume an amendment naming a new executor will create trouble.

Similarly, the disposition of a previously unlisted asset in the will is fine to add. If you just bought a summer house and want to leave it to your adult child, for example, that's okay to add as an amendment.


The mechanism for amending a will is a codicil. This is a document that's not too different from the will. A will attorney writes provisions, you sign them, and then the codicil goes into your records and those of the law office.

A lawyer's major fear with codicils is that people can lose them. Especially if you're making a change to the disposition of assets, it may be easier to contain everything in a single document. This means revoking the old will and replacing it with a fresh one.