Wisconsin, like many states, has several different requirements to create a valid Will.
The particular rules for signing a Will are contained in Wis. Stat. § 853.03. These rules require that a Will be:
- Signed by the creator (or by another person at the specific direction of the creator); and
- Signed by at least two witnesses within a reasonable time that the creator signed.
While many people are able to sign a Will and never make any changes to their plan, sometimes we need to adjust certain provisions of the document. For example, I might make a change if I listed my brother to serve as my personal representative and handle my affairs, but he moved out of the country after I sign my Will. It could be very difficult for my brother to handle my affairs from thousands of miles away. If that happened, I might want to swap out my brother for a friend or relative who lived closer to me.
We often see clients in this exact circumstance who will cross out a name on their Will and write in the new name. Unfortunately, that is not a valid change under Wisconsin’s laws. Remember that a Will must be signed by two witnesses in order to be effective. The same rule applies to changing a provision in a Will.
Merely crossing out a provision and handwriting in the new words does not comply with the two witness requirement. In order to change a Will, we prepare a separate document called a Codicil that amends the prior document. Codicils are signed by the creator, along with two witnesses, and effectively change the terms of the prior Will.
If you need assistance changing your Will, please contact one of our estate planning attorneys.