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Can You Make a Temporary Change to a Will?

October 5, 2019
David Parker, Esq.
What doesn't Medicare cover.
David Parker, White Plains and New City NY Estate Planning Attorney
David Parker, Esq.
David Parker is an attorney who specializes in Estate Planning and Elder Law and has been practicing law for 30 years. Be it Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, or Medicaid Planning, David provides comprehensive and caring counsel for seniors and their families. A large portion of David’s practice is asset protection strategies so that families do not lose their hard earned savings to nursing home care costs. He also handles probate administration for the settlement of estates.
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.

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, not necessarily a temporary change to a Will, 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 If you revoked the will in full, you’ve changed it, because it no longer exists or is no longer valid.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 it’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.

These are the most common ways to change a will. However, none of them is temporary change to a will. 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 necessary 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. 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 failed 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 change to a will 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 a will and find out how it might be accomplished.

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


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