14 Oct Does my dad need to pay money for a new will?
Q. My father has a will but he would like to leave some specific items to people. These are items not specified in the will. Can he just write this out and sign it in front of a notary or does he need to have his will changed? I am the executor and I don’t want him to have to spend more money to add these items, which do have value, to the will.
A. Your dad can keep it simple, but it could cause more trouble for you as the executor.
Your dad could create a written list that disposes of tangible personal property not otherwise identified and disposed of by the will, said Catherine Romania. an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.
“The list must either be in the testator’s handwriting or be signed by the testator,” Romania said. “It also must describe the item and the individual to receive the intended item clearly.”
She said this list can be created before or after the will is signed.
The list can be amended or revoked, and it should be kept with the will or given to the executor so the executor is aware of it and can ensure it is followed, she said.
“Although not legally enforceable, and assuming the beneficiaries of the other tangible personal property and/or residuary estate consent, even if the Will does not refer to the written list but the testator nevertheless leaves such a list, the executor may choose to honor such distribution,” she said.
But, you have to be careful.
Romania said it would not be in the interest of the executor and may be a breach of fiduciary duty to honor such a list and make such distribution if the beneficiaries named in the will object.
You don’t want to cause a fight over these items after your dad is gone.
So, it could make sense to change the will to specifically mention these items, even if you think – at this point – there would be no fight over the items. But we’d rather you be safe than sorry.
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This story was originally published on Oct. 14, 2019.
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