Hands writing on paper with a pen.

Can I amend my own will?

Cornwall lawyer Michele Allinotte answers the question, “Can I amend my own will?”

I often have clients call me and either ask me if they can change their wills themselves, or if they can change their will by crossing out and amending items, and then adding their initials to the changes.

Please never make handwritten changes on your will.

In my practice, the will clients hold at home is not the original will. It is a copy of the original will. I hold the original in my fire proof cabinets.

Even it it was the original will held by the client, making handwritten changes on an original will generally revokes the existing will. The handwritten changes would be read as if those amendments themselves were an entirely new holograph (handwritten) will. If you were crossing out and adding names, all that the “new” will would consist of were names, which would make no sense.

If the changes aren’t witnessed by the original witnesses to the will, there is really no way to know if it was you who actually made the changes. When you are dead, you cannot confirm you made those changes.

When you try to change things yourself, you may use the wrong words, or change the meaning of other provisions in your will. Your intended revisions may be cryptic and unable to be properly interpreted.

Depending on the state of your health, there might also be a question of whether or not you had the capacity to make those changes.

The only way to properly amend your will in Ontario is to sign a new will, which will revoke the old will, or execute a codicil, which is an amendment to your will. In order to be valid in Ontario, a will or codicil must meet the execution and witnessing requirements set by legislation. Otherwise, the documents are invalid from the start.

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