What if I have more children after I write my will?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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The way to avoid inheritance problems if you have more children after you write your will, is to keep your will up to date. Any time a family change occurs that will alter your beneficiaries, you should revise your will. You can either prepare a new will or add an amendment, called a codicil, to your existing will. A codicil is a formal supplement to your will and must conform to the same requirements. It must be written and then signed by you and witnessed. They need not be the same witnesses who signed the original will.

Tip: If you execute a codicil to your will, be sure to store it with your original will. If the changes are extensive, you should consider revoking the old will and writing a new one to avoid confusion when the will is offered for probate. Writing a new will also assures that you don’t make mistakes. Your new will must include a statement to the effect that you “revoke all prior wills and codicils”. This wording will protect your intentions if you forgot to destroy any originals or copies of prior wills or codicils.

Leaving property to your children by name rather than in equal shares can make distribution very complex if you do not change the will when subsequent children are born. If, for example, each of three children get one third of your estate, and you fail to change your will when a fourth is born, some courts might assume that your intent was to give each child an equal share of the estate and award each 25% (unless you have a clause about intentionally not leaving anything to any children not specifically named). If, however, each child, by name, is left a different amount, the court will have no idea about your intentions for another child without further documentation.

Some wills and trusts are written to anticipate the possibility of additional children, thus protecting the interests of any future children. This, or similar, wording may be used:

If, subsequent to the execution of this document, there shall be an additional child or children born to me, such child or children (or issue thereof) shall share in the benefits hereunder the same as my children named herein.

This wording may work if all children share equally under the will but not if each child is to receive specific property or unequal shares. You should always make a new will whenever life-changing events, such as the birth of a child, occur. (See article on When and How Should I Revise My Will?)

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