Change Your Will

Changing Your Will: Frequently Asked Questions

It is not uncommon for testators to have a will properly drafted and executed only to thwart their own estate plan afterward as a result of their own actions. It is important to know how to treat the physical document as well as how and when to revise its contents.

What should I do with my will after it’s executed?

After your will is executed, you should retain the original. Keep it in a safe but accessible place where it is unlikely to be damaged or destroyed. If you prefer to keep your will in your home, a fireproof box, both protective and accessible, may be preferential to a safe. Another alternative is to deposit your will with the county clerk of the county of your residence as provided in KRS 394.110. For a very small fee, the clerk will retain your will and deliver it according to your instructions after your death. If you do not provide instructions, or the person you designate to receive it cannot for any reason, the clerk will deliver the document directly to the District Court for probate.

Should I keep my will in a safety deposit box?

Testators are often inclined to keep their wills in safes or safety deposit boxes. While that may be helpful to ensure that the document is kept in good condition, remember that after your pass, your loved ones must be able to locate and access the will. In order to find and examine a will in a decedent’s safety deposit box, Kentucky requires persons to present proof of death, and the interested person must possess a key. KRS 286-02.105. Of course, a joint owner of the box may also access its contents.

Can I change my will after it has been executed?

You are certainly welcome to change your will. After all, the purpose of a will is to distribute your estate according to your wishes. However, your will or certain provisions may not be given effect if changes are not made in the manner prescribed by law. While Kentucky law does allow you to revoke your will in part, there are limited ways of doing so effectively under the statute. Also, you cannot add to or modify your existing will except by a validly executed subsequent will or modification called a codicil. Kentucky law favors the idea that a testator would not wish his property to pass under the rules of intestacy, so you probably will not invalidate your will as a whole by attempting to make changes yourself. But your wishes probably won’t be given effect either, so it is still advisable to have an attorney alter it properly.

If a will is supposed to reflect my intentions, why won’t the changes I make to it be valid?

The intentions of the testator are of the utmost importance. Kentucky’s will statutes and case law show how valuable the testator’s wishes are by disallowing modifications without re-execution. Remember that your will won’t be probated until after you’re gone – it has to speak for you. Yes, some additional time, effort, and probably expense must be expended to execute a subsequent will or codicil properly. However, it is that additional effort that shows that the changes were not a fleeting thought, but a carefully considered, rational desire to dispose of your property differently – a thought that can be attested to by witnesses after you have passed. Ultimately, attempting to change your will by writing on it and/or crossing out items creates confusion that turns into legal fees for your loved ones.

How often should my will be reconsidered or redrafted?

Contact your attorney to discuss your will after major life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, and the acquisition of significant property. It is also a good idea to follow up with your attorney every five years or so to discuss possible changes in the law that might affect your distribution scheme.