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How to Change Your Personal Representative

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning and probate attorney for the last 20 years I’ve found that most people don’t get their estate planning done because they don’t know how to start. The good news is, we make the process as easy as possible. If you don’t have an estate plan yet or even if you do but you’ve decided you need to update or change your estate plan, you can use our free Estate Planning Questionnaire. This is the easiest way to help you pull together all the information you need to create, update, or change your estate plan so it meets all your current needs. 

Once you have filled out the Questionnaire you can forward it to us. We then schedule a contact-us.html for you so we can review your current information and help you create a plan or determine whether a change is needed in your current plan. 

Our goal is to provide each of our clients with as much information and knowledge as possible so they will know what it is they can and should do given their own particular circumstances. In other words, we don’t use a cookie cutter approach. Our goal is to help each of our clients have a customized plan that will meet their particular needs. This means protecting them while they are alive, and helping them determine who will receive their money, property, and other assets after they pass away. 

One of the basic documents that we help our clients prepare is a last will and testament. This document is designed to accomplish three specific things. First, it provides directions to the family letting them know that all of the decedent’s debts and expenses have to be paid. The law in Idaho requires this to be done, but we put it in every will to make sure everyone understands this needs to be done.

Second, the will gives a person the ability to determine who will receive their estate when they are gone. In other words, you get to decide how to distribute and give away your money, property, and other assets and who your beneficiaries will be. This is particularly important if you have a spouse who has any health or mental issues as well as children who are minors, or who have any type of disabilities or addictions. You can use your will as a mechanism for protecting your assets and preserving them for your spouse and/or children so that they can be used in a manner that will best help them when you are gone. 

Finally, your will is the place where you get to nominate a person who will be in charge of your estate after you die. This person in Idaho is called a personal representative. Sometimes this person also goes by the name of a “PR” or an “executor”, but they all mean the same thing. This person’s job is to make sure that everything you’ve stated in your will actually happens. In other words, they are the person who is responsible for carrying out your instructions and doing everything your will says needs to be done. 

The question for today’s article is how can you change the personal representative you’ve nominated in your last will and testament?

Why or When You Would Want to Make a Change

Before we answer the question of how you do this, we also want to pose the question of why you would ever want to do this? Usually, when an individual chooses who their personal representative will be, they have already spent some time thinking about what it is this person is going to do and who would be the best person to do it. So after going through all this trouble to make this decision, why would you ever want to change what you’ve done? 

There are several important reasons why you may want to do this. I call these reasons major life changes. In other words, life doesn’t just stand still. It moves along and when it does changes occur. Some of these changes in our lives are small, and some of them are huge. The big ones are the major life changes that we need to be concerned with. 

Major life changes include things such as a person dying, or a person being born. It also includes a person being divorced or a person being married, as well as a person being incapacitated, or moving away. Additionally, a major life change could include a change in a relationship if you have with someone. 

For example, let’s suppose that you are in your early twenties and you are single. You create your own estate plan, and you named your brother as your personal representative. A few years later you get married. Because of the marriage, you may think that your new spouse is a better person to be your personal representative than your brother is. With this major life change, it may be wise for you to make a change to remove your brother as your personal representative and nominate your new spouse instead. 

As another example, suppose you are older, and you have adult children. You named your oldest son as your personal representative. However, a few years after that happened, your oldest son was either killed or was seriously injured in a car accident. Because of this he is no longer able to act as your personal representative. So now you need to make a change.

Or suppose for a minute that you have a best friend who you named as your personal representative. However, some disagreement occurred in your friendship that distanced you and your friend. Now, you and your friend are no longer on speaking terms. Because of this, you probably don’t want this person to be your personal representative any longer. 

These are just some simple examples of how major life changes can affect your estate plan and in particular the person you’ve named or nominated as your personal representative. In addition to these examples, there are many other reasons, including other major life changes that could occur, that may make it necessary for you to change who your personal representative will be. 

Change by Using a Codicil

The first way that you can change who you would put it as your personal representative is through a document called a codicil. A codicil is nothing more than a short amendment to your existing will. Your will is created by using separate paragraphs that are identified by numbers or letters. A codicil would simply state that it is a mending a certain paragraph. It would then identify the paragraph number or letter that is being changed and would supply the language or the new sentence or paragraph that would replace the previous one.

Using a codicil is the simplest method of making a minor change to a will. This is usually the best way of making a change if you don’t anticipate that other changes need to be made. 

To be enforceable, a codicil has to follow all the same formal requirements necessary to make a will valid. This means that it must be typewritten, signed, witnessed, and notarized. If it is done in any other way, then it may not be considered valid. 

Change by Rewriting Will

If more than simple changes are necessary to update who your personal representative is, or if you have already used a codicil and you need to make an additional change, then usually the best way to do this is by rewriting the entire Will. This is done because it is the best way to eliminate any type of confusion that could exist with regards to what it is you actually won. In other words, rather than having an original Will and six or seven codicils that have to be kept track of and to determine which codicil is the most recent, rewriting the entire Will makes it much simpler. 

When a new will is written, it has language in it stating that it revokes and replaces any previously written wills. This means there is only one document to keep track of and if it is the most recent document it is the only document that contains your final wishes. 

I usually recommend doing a rewritten will anytime there were previous codicils or if there are more changes being made than just nominating a new personal representative. Whether it is necessary to rewrite an entire will is simply determined by the individual circumstances and needs. In other words, sometimes it is necessary, and sometimes it isn’t. 

If you have concerns about who you have nominated as your personal representative, and you want to make a change, we can help. We have assisted numerous clients in creating estate plans and end up dating or replacing estate plans when necessary. We are confident that we can answer all your questions and help you too! Call us today for your contact-us.html so we can answer your questions. 

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho estate planning problems

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