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It is not uncommon for individuals to create multiple wills or trusts over the course of their lifetimes as their situations change. Some testators (creators of wills) and grantors (creators of trusts) wonder what happens – or what should happen – to the will or trust that is being replaced. This can be of concern if the testator or grantor does not know where he or she placed the other will or trust. Thankfully, even if the whereabouts of the obsolete will or trust is not known there are steps that can be taken to prevent the missing will or trust from causing legal trouble later.

Include the Appropriate Language in the New Will or Trust

Whenever you create a new will or trust, there should always be language within the new document itself that acknowledges you have created prior wills and clearly and unequivocally expressing your desire to make a new will or trust and do away with the old one. When new estate planning documents have this language it becomes clear to probate courts which version of your will or trust is the correct one. The clearest of such clauses will identify the obsolete document by type (a will or trust) and indicate the date on which it was executed.

You Should Still Destroy Your Previous Documents, if Possible

While the inclusion of a clause overriding and replacing will provide a court with some definitive direction in the event a copy of your old will and a copy of your new will are both presented to a court, it is still preferable to destroy your old will or trust at the time you create your new will or trust. If shredding copies of the old document(s) is not possible, you can always mark through them with large “X”’s or with the word “VOID” (or words of similar import). Any one of these actions can further solidify your intentions for a court being asked to consider whether to admit your most current will to probate or enforce the most current version of your trust.

Be Certain to Speak with Your Administrator or Representative

Whether you tell your heirs and/or beneficiaries that you have created a new will or trust is a matter for you to decide based upon your personal circumstances. At the very least, though, you should tell your executor or trustee about the change. Obtain any copy of your old will or trust that he or she may have and allow him or her to see what changes have been made. Inform your executor or trustee where to find the new will or trust documents so that he or she can take prompt action in the event of your death.

The Law Office of John C. Grundy is an Ohio law firm assisting individuals in planning their estates so as to maximize the value of their estates’ assets for their heirs and beneficiaries while minimizing legal challenges. Contact our office to discuss your estate planning needs by calling (330) 637-9030 or by contacting us online.