How often should you update your will

Nothing is forever. Not even the last will. Sometimes, in the course of time, new constellations arise that make it necessary to adapt the will. This can be the premature death of an appointed heir, a divorce or the self-sacrificing care of an unrelated person, which one wants to consider in the will.

Modification or revocation of a handwritten will

"As long as a testator is capable of making a testimony, i.e. in full possession of his intellectual powers, he can change or revoke his will at any time," says Andreas Frieser from the German Lawyers' Association. In the case of a handwritten will, changes, like the rest of the text, must be made by hand. "A typed version that is simply signed is not enough," says Frieser. In the case of additions, the place and date should always be given, and they must be signed with first and last names. Otherwise they are invalid. Only those supplements are effective that are above the signature.

In principle, changes should be made in the form of an addition, the original document should not be shortened or supplemented, advises the lawyer: "Deletions in the text, corrections in the margin or above the lines usually raise questions of interpretation and thus open the way for legal disputes." Then it is better to write a new will.

The drawing up of a new will counts as a revocation of the old one, insofar as the new dispositions conflict with the old one (BGB ยง 2258). The date is therefore particularly important. If there are contradictions between changes and the original text of the will or between two wills, the passage that was last dated and signed shall always apply.

"The word revocation does not necessarily have to appear in the New Testament. It is sufficient if it shows that the previous one is ineffective," says Frieser. However, a revocation also counts if the will is destroyed, for example burned or torn. If there is no new will beyond that, the legal succession occurs. It is important that the testator behaves clearly. A document that is simply crumpled up or thrown in the trash can lead to legal discussions: Did the author really mean the destruction?

Modification or revocation of a notarial will

A notarial will is deemed to be revoked as soon as it is removed from judicial custody. "If the testator wants a withdrawn notarial will to be valid again, he has to rewrite it from scratch," says Frieser. Simply giving it back into custody does not change anything about the revocation.

The situation is different with a private will that has been deposited with the local court. "This can be retrieved and changed at any time without losing its validity," said the lawyer.

Despite everything, there is also the possibility of making changes to notarial wills - be it in the form of a supplementary document drawn up by the notary, but the testator can also write the change himself or herself. "With a privately written addition, however, you should make sure that it does not collide with the rest of the contents of the will," warns Frieser. If in doubt, it makes sense to discuss the changes with a notary or lawyer. This can prevent new provisions from overriding the old text of the testament. The notarial addition is then added to the will in the court.