How can wills and powers of attorney change over time?

Wills and powers of attorney (POAs) are extremely useful pre-planning documents, because they can provide security and peace of mind in times of ill health, and at the end of a person’s life. But these documents are necessarily written well before we anticipate that we will need to use them. This means that our wills and POAs can become outdated.

In this short article, we’ve flagged a few circumstances where you should consider updating your will and POAs, and we’ve described a few ways that each type of document can be changed.

As always, when you are working with wills and POAs, it is best to retain a lawyer.

You should consider updating your wills and POAs if:

  • You get married or divorced

  • Your spouse passes

  • You show or your spouse shows early signs of losing capacity

  • You have your first child

  • All of your children reach the age of majority

  • You become estranged from a person named in your will

  • You are a business owner and you are selling the business

  • You are moving to different province or country

  • Your financial situation changes drastically, or your financial wishes change drastically

  • You experience other drastic changes in your life

How can you update your will?

You can update your will in two main ways:
writing a new will, or adding a codicil to your existing will.

A codicil is a document that is read together with the original will. This means that all of your original intentions will still be read when you pass. By contrast, writing an entirely new will means that the original will can be entirely destroyed, without anyone reading it after you pass.

Anyone considering using a codicil should think about whether the contents of the codicil would contradict the contents of the original will, because this kind of inconsistency can lead to people challenging your will after you pass. So, if you are planning on making a relatively small change to your will, like changing your executor or adding a particular gift, a codicil may be the best option for you. On the other hand, if you are planning on making significant changes to your will — such as changing your beneficiaries or what they receive, or changing multiple sections of your will — an entirely new will may be the best option for you.

 How can you update your POAs?

There is no real process to “tweak” a POA. POAs for property and for personal care are quite short and specific documents. Therefore, if you need to make changes to your POA(s), you will almost certainly need to write entirely new POAs.