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Can You Make a Temporary Change to a Will?

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I admit that this question stumped me. It was not so much because of what you are asking, but rather why you are asking it in the first place. I’ve tried to come up with a scenario why someone would want to change their will temporarily, but I have come up blank.

Can and should you make a temporary change in your will? By their very nature, wills are changeable while you are alive and competent, but they are not temporary.

People usually make changes to their wills when their relationship with heirs have changed, or if they get divorced, or when a spouse dies. They also change their wills when they do a regular review, which should be done every three or four years. However, most people make changes that are permanent, says in the article “Temporarily changing a will.”

There are three ways to change a will, none of which is temporary.

The first is to fully revoke the will. This can be done by executing a revocation or by physically destroying it, by tearing it up or shredding it. If you revoked the will in full, you’ve changed it, because it no longer exists or is no longer valid. However, that’s not temporary.

Another way to change a will, and the one that most people do, is by executing a new will. A new will should include language that states that all prior wills and codicils (i.e., amendments) are revoked and the new will is the only valid one. By executing a new will, you’ve changed the original will by revoking it. Again, this is not a temporary change. It’s permanent, or it is permanent until you execute a new will or revoke the will by destroying it.

The third way to change a will is to execute an amendment to the will. This amendment to the will is known as a “codicil.” By executing a codicil, an existing will is still valid, except for the portions in the will that are addressed by the codicil.

Codicils made a lot of sense before word processing. To ask a secretary to retype a 20 page will might be burdensome, as opposed to a short attachment. We rarely do these now, as we can redo an entire will with little or no typing

These are the most common ways to change a will. However, none of them is temporary. Anything that is done to change the will has a lasting effect, not a temporary one.

If the will is physically revoked, it no longer exists. If a new will is executed, the old one is revoked. And if you revoke the subsequent will, the original does not necessarily become valid again.

There is a line of cases that say if a subsequent will turns out to be invalid, the prior one remains valid. This is called “Dependent relative revocation.” It has a catchy ring, like the “Heartbreak of psoriasis.” However, the reasoning here is that the original will was never revoked in the first place because the revocation failed. However, if the subsequent will was revoked, rather than failing because it was invalid, that would not be the case.

You might execute a codicil amending the will and then revoke the codicil, but that may not work, depending on other facts and circumstances.

A temporary revocation may not be an option, or it may be a bad one. Speak with an estate planning attorney to clarify your reasoning for seeking a temporary change to your estate plan, and find out how it might be accomplished.

Reference: (Sep. 8, 2019) “Temporarily changing a will.”