, Derry, New Hampshire

Crime / Court

August 17, 2011

Don't make changes to a will without legal help

Can I make handwritten changes to a typed-up and properly witnessed will? If so, do the changes need to be initialed or signed in full? Do we date each change? Finally, do the changes need to be witnessed on each page?

This is a very bad idea and can, in fact, raise a cloud of doubt about the entire will itself.

The proper manner in which to make valid changes to a will is with what is called a codicil. A codicil is a document that allows the testator, the person who made the will, to make valid changes.

The codicil, essentially an amendment to the will, is signed with the same formalities as the will itself. That, in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, requires two adult witnesses

A notarized self-attestation clause also is highly recommended. This means that the will is self-proving, so no actual live witnesses are needed in the probate court to allow the will.

I get this question often. Do not do "interlineations," or just write changes on a will. Whether signed, initialed or dated, you're fouling a legal document.

Some of the nastiest lawsuits I've ever been drawn into were will contests. There were challenges to the validity of the will, the testamentary capacity of the testator and the property dispositions in the wills.

For the relatively short money of having an attorney produce a valid codicil now, don't risk a lengthy and nasty piece of litigation for your survivors by writing on the will.

Do emails count as "in writing?" We've had many problems with conditions in our apartment.

We think we have been in good faith when it comes to dealing with the problems, but that the landlord has ignored conditions.

We've told the landlord about problems by email. Does that count as "in writing," especially when he replies by email?

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