Can You Change Your Will On Your Deathbed?
A Last Will and Testament or Will is a key estate planning document. It is crucial that your Will truly reflect your intentions. As long as a person is legally competent, he or she retains the right to make changes to a Will—even if they are on their deathbed. In Massachusetts deathbed changes to a Will can be legally valid. In this blog post, our Boston estate planning attorneys provide an overview of key things to know about last minute changes to your Will.
Last Minute Changes are Valid—Assuming Legal (Mental) Competence
There is no waiting period for a Will to take effect in Massachusetts. In essence, this means that altering your Will at the eleventh hour (last minute/deathbed) can be a legally recognized action. However, a person can only make a change to a Will if deemed legally (mentally) competent.
It is a legal principle that ensures that the person making the change fully understands the implications and consequences of their decision. Indeed, mental competence is a critical factor, as it protects against undue influence or coercion during such a vulnerable time.
Two Ways to Change a Will in Massachusetts
How do you revise a Will in Massachusetts? It depends on your specific needs and goals. You have two broad options available:
- New Will: Creating a new Will is the most straightforward approach to altering one’s testamentary intentions in Massachusetts. The process involves drafting an entirely new document that outlines the individual’s revised wishes. It is crucial that the new Will follows all legal requirements, for example, is notarized and witnessed by two individuals.
- Codicil: Another option is a codicil. As explained by the Legal Information Institute, a codicil is a supplementary document used to make minor adjustments or amendments to an existing Will. The method can be particularly advantageous for those who wish to make specific changes without redoing their entire Will. It is also less costly. In considering between a new Last Will and Testament and a Codicil, it is important to be cognizant of the effect the later changes may have on family dynamics, as the previous Will is submitted to probate, along with the Codicil, is a public document. It will be apparent if someone’s gift has been reduced or even eliminated. If family harmony is important, it may be more advantageous to start from scratch and opt for a new Last Will and Testament.
A Late Change to a Will May Be More Likely to Be Contested
Modifying a Will shortly before death can often lead to disputes and challenges from potential heirs or beneficiaries. Here is another point that you should keep in mind: Any last minute change is more susceptible to being contested. Most often, this type of challenge is due to concerns about the testator’s mental capacity—and, most notably, the potential for undue influence or pressure. To mitigate the risk of a will contest, it is advisable to have clear documentation supporting the individual’s mental competence and the absence of undue influence. Among other things, this might include medical records or a statement from a legal or medical professional. Thorough and clear explanation of the reasons behind the changes can help alleviate suspicions and reduce the likelihood of a legal challenge.
Contact Our Boston Estate Planning Lawyer Today
At Fisher Law LLC, our Boston estate planning attorneys are focused on helping people and families find solutions that work. If you have questions about late changes to your Will, we can help. Contact us today to set up a confidential consultation. Our firm provides estate planning services in Boston and throughout the region, including in Suffolk County, Plymouth County, and Norfolk County.