What is modification by circumstances with a completed will?

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2020 | Estate Planning |

Pennsylvanians who understand the importance of estate planning and have completed a will might be under the impression that the document does not need to be addressed after the fact. However, there are factors that might make it necessary to update a will or face the possibility of it being changed according to the law. There is a law called modification by circumstances that directly impacts a person’s will. To avoid the will being changed without input from the person who created it – the testator – it is imperative to understand this law and to have legal advice.

Certain occurrences can warrant the modification of a will

People who have completed a will sometimes choose to end a marriage. If there is a divorce or a pending divorce and there are aspects in the will that are linked to that spouse, it is ineffective unless there are provisions that were inserted and will be in effect regardless of whether the couple remains married or not. There will be a circumstantial modification if the couple divorces after the will or if the testator dies in Pennsylvania while the divorce is taking place.

If the testator got married after creating the will, the spouse will receive the part of the estate that he or she would have gotten if the testator died without a will (intestate). It is possible that the will provided a greater share of the estate than would be given based on this law and it was made before the marriage but while they were planning it. Birth or adoption of children after a will with the testator not accounting for it results in the child receiving a share of the property. If it appears that the exclusion of the child was intentional, then this does not apply.

Comprehensive estate planning often requires legal help

Creating a complete estate plan is a good step, but it is also wise to know when the law can warrant changes to the will without a testator being aware of it. To account for modification by circumstances and other factors that could fall under the radar as part of estate planning, it is useful to consult with experienced legal professionals from the start. Calling for a consultation even after a will has been completed and life changes are on the horizon can provide a shield to avoid problems with the will.


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