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Navigating the Aftermath: Can a Will be Changed After Death?

In the complex and often emotionally charged arena of estate planning, one question frequently arises: “Can a will be changed after death?” The nature of this question can be pure legal curiosity, a concern for and desire to advocate for your family members during a complicated family moment, or a desire for a more equitable distribution of a deceased person’s assets.

The straightforward answer is no, a will cannot be changed after the testator has died. However, the reality surrounding this issue is nuanced, involving legal mechanisms that, under certain circumstances, can alter the effect of a will or its distributions without changing its actual terms.

Understanding the Finality of a Will

A will is a legal document that expresses the testator’s wishes regarding how their estate should be distributed upon their death. Once the testator passes away, the will becomes a fixed document; its terms are meant to be executed as written, reflecting the deceased’s final wishes. This principle underscores the importance of drafting a will carefully and updating it as circumstances change throughout one’s life.

However, the inquiry into “Can a will be changed after death?” opens the door to exploring mechanisms like probate challenges, the role of estate laws, and agreements among beneficiaries that can impact how, and to whom, assets are ultimately distributed.

Challenging a Will

One of the primary avenues through which the outcomes dictated by a will can be contested or modified involves legal challenges during the probate process. Probate is the legal procedure through which a will is validated by a court. During probate, interested parties can challenge the will’s validity on several grounds:

Undue Influence

Undue influence refers to a situation where one person manipulates or exerts excessive pressure on another individual, typically someone vulnerable or in a position of dependence, to gain control over their decision-making, especially regarding the drafting of a will or estate planning. This manipulation is aimed at benefiting the influencer at the expense of the true intentions of the person making the will (the testator) and often occurs in relationships where there is an inherent power imbalance, such as caregiver-patient, attorney-client, or between elderly individuals and their family members or friends. 

Legally, proving undue influence can invalidate a will or specific provisions within it, as it demonstrates that the document does not accurately reflect the testator’s free will and intentions. Courts scrutinize such claims closely, requiring substantial evidence to demonstrate that undue influence was indeed exerted, affecting the testator’s decisions regarding their estate. 

can a will be changed after death

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

Lack of testamentary capacity is relevant in the event that an testator does not possess the mental capacity to understand the nature and implications of the estate planning documents they are executing, specifically a will. This legal pillar protects testators from being exploited 

To challenge a will based on lack of testamentary capacity, evidence must be presented to show that at the time the will was made, the testator was unable to make decisions for themselves, regarding their estate. Courts consider such claims seriously, as they can lead to a will being declared invalid if testamentary capacity is indeed proven to be lacking.

Other Issues With Execution 

Several other issues with the way a will was executed can be cause for challenging a will. If a challenge is successful, the will might be declared invalid, and the estate would then be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws, unless a prior valid will takes precedence.

Family Settlement Agreements

Another scenario where the question “Can a will be changed after death?” becomes relevant is through family settlement agreements. In some jurisdictions, if all beneficiaries agree, they can redistribute assets in a manner different from what is stipulated in the will. These agreements can be used to resolve disputes amicably without a lengthy court process. However, such arrangements must consider the rights of all beneficiaries and, sometimes, the intentions of the testator, as inferred from the will and other estate planning documents.

Deeds of Variation

In some countries like the United Kingdom, deeds of variation (also known as deeds of family arrangement) allow beneficiaries to redirect their inheritance to other individuals or entities. This mechanism can be used for various reasons, including tax planning, providing for someone who was omitted from the will, or rectifying what beneficiaries perceive as an unfair distribution. Although this process does not change the will itself, it alters the distribution of the estate in a way that can reflect posthumous wishes or agreements among beneficiaries.

The Importance of Estate Planning

The question “Can a will be changed after death?” underscores the critical importance of comprehensive estate planning. Regularly updating your will to reflect changes in relationships, financial situations, and personal wishes is crucial. Estate planning is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that should adapt to new life events, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, and significant financial changes.

Moreover, clear communication with potential beneficiaries about your wishes can prevent misunderstandings and disputes after your death. Estate planning tools like trusts can also offer more flexibility and control over asset distribution, potentially reducing the likelihood of challenges and disagreements among heirs.

So? Can a Will Be Changed After Death?

While the direct answer to “Can a will be changed after death?” is no, the nuances of estate law and the possibilities for beneficiaries to agree on different outcomes introduce shades of complexity to this question. The finality of a will is a principle that protects the testator’s wishes, but the legal frameworks in place recognize that circumstances and relationships continue to evolve even after a person’s death. 

Understanding these mechanisms should be plenty to convince you that engaging in thorough estate planning is an essential step to ensuring that your own wishes are honored in the future, and that your loved ones are provided for according to your intentions. This approach not only honors the spirit of the question but also the spirit of the law and the wishes of those who have passed on.

Lewman Law Can Help You

Ready to take the next step in securing your financial legacy? At Lewman Law, we specialize in crafting comprehensive estate plans tailored to your unique needs. Our team of experienced professionals is ready to guide you through the intricacies of marital trusts and estate planning. Contact us today for a personalized consultation and discover how Lewman Law can empower your financial future. Let’s build a legacy that stands the test of time – together.

Filed under Estate Planning, financial planning, Legal Services

Ask an Estate Planning Attorney: How To Talk To Your Aging Parents About Wills and Estate Planning

Planning for your estate is a crucial task, yet many of our aging parents find it emotionally challenging to start the process. Our mortality brings up a lot of complex emotions, and so it makes sense that the subject would be a difficult one to broach, especially with the people who raised you and took care of you for so long. Finding a compassionate estate planning attorney can be challenging, but with 30 years of experience, Lewman Law can help. 

Some older parents believe that they don’t need an estate plan because they’re not old enough or don’t have significant assets to worry about. However, estate planning isn’t just about distributing wealth; it is also the place to make important medical decisions that preserve autonomy and quality of life. Regardless of age, everyone should have an estate plan to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Be Gentle.

In particular though, it’s important that we know how to have compassionate conversations with our aging population, so that they feel supported and empowered to preserve their wealth and help their family’s future legacy, rather than overwhelmed by the morose affairs of death and money.

We put it bluntly because it’s that simple: Contemplating mortality can be uncomfortable, and as humans we like to avoid uncomfortable things whenever possible. Some folks go as far as to associate discussing death with hastening its arrival. However, the reality is that avoiding estate planning won’t prevent death, it only makes it more complicated. Estate planning involves legal documents, tax considerations, and family dynamics, so surely some people procrastinate because they perceive it as complex or overwhelming; but mostly it’s the whole avoiding-talking-about-death thing.

If you’re the loving child of an aging parent, here are some tips to help you ease into and navigate a conversation about speaking with an estate planning attorney that everyone will feel good about, when it’s over.

Initiate the Conversation Early

estate planning attorney

Start discussing estate planning with your parents sooner rather than later. While it might feel uncomfortable, it’s essential to communicate to them that you value their wishes and preferences, and want to honor those wishes after they are gone or are unable to advocate for themselves. Encourage open communication about their assets, healthcare preferences, and end-of-life decisions, and share your own with them too! This will go a long way towards opening the conversation, and removing any perceived power dynamics.

Remind Them Of Their Autonomy

Instead, remind them that they have the power to make choices about where their money goes when they are gone, and that you are glad to help them. Offer them privacy, too; tell them that you’re happy to help support making appointments and finding resources and that no one else but them and their estate planning attorney needs to know what is in their will. This may help to ease anxiety they may have about family conflicts. 

Team Up With Other Family Members

Sometimes there’s power in numbers – but choose wisely. Enlist the help of your other siblings, cousins, or anyone whom your parents trust. This is not the time to bring in anyone who has a complicated relationship; imagine that you’re building a team of support, not a conflict-style intervention. You probably know exactly who not to invite. If your parents value their privacy, this might not be a helpful move, so be thoughtful. 

As people age, they can experience a loss of independence and autonomy as their body and mind slow down. This can be pretty emotionally challenging, and so you’ll want to enter the conversation from a place of compassion and empowerment, and not control. For example, don’t say, “I need you to write a will, and then give it to me.” 

Bring in the Professionals

Estate planning involves legal complexities. Encourage your elders to consult with an estate planning attorney. A professional can help create essential documents like wills, trusts, and advance healthcare directives. They’ll ensure everything aligns with your parent’s desires and state laws. If you’re in the Alameda area, we’d be honored to help

Set Aside a Designated Time to Talk

It can be tempting to have these kinds of conversations during family get-togethers like holidays, since it’s so rare to be in the same place. Resist the urge; these kinds of conversations should have time set aside out of respect for the importance of the topics. 

How to Help Prepare to Meet With an Estate Planning Attorney

After you’ve successfully had the conversation, it’s time to get ready for your meeting with us, so that it can be as fruitful and affordable as possible. The more you prepare, the smoother and faster ($!) things will be. IIt can be overwhelming to know what you need. Here’s a few things to discuss beforehand:

Document All Assets

Help your parent compile a comprehensive list of their assets. Include bank accounts, investments, real estate, insurance policies, and personal belongings. Knowing what they own simplifies the planning process.

Discuss Healthcare Decisions

Discuss healthcare preferences with them. Encourage them to create a durable power of attorney for healthcare. This document designates someone (usually you or another trusted family member) to make medical decisions if they become incapacitated.

Financial Power of Attorney

Different than a medical directive, this allows someone to manage their financial affairs if your parents become unable to do so. It’s crucial for paying bills, managing investments, and handling day-to-day finances. 

Guardianship for Minor Children

In the rare case that your parent is the guardian of minor children (for example, raising your sibling’s child) discuss who would care for the child if something happened to your parent. Naming a guardian in their will ensures the children’s well-being. 

Review any current beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets. These designations override the will, so it’s important to keep them up to date. 

We’d Love To Help

We know just how difficult it can be to have these conversations, and we are here to help however we can. It’s our greatest aspiration that choosing us as your estate planning attorney provides a little peace of mind, knowing that your loved one’s affairs are in order.Remember, estate planning isn’t just about finances; it’s about ensuring your parent’s legacy and well-being. By actively participating in this process, you’re supporting them in a very meaningful way, and making your future life a little easier, so you can concentrate on family when it’s time for that. Click here to get in touch, and schedule your consultation.  

Filed under Estate Planning, financial planning, Legal Services

Best Probate Attorney: 10 Qualities To Look For

Best Probate Attorney Qualities To Look For

When you lose a loved one, dealing with the estate and everything that comes with it can be tough. The responsibilities and stressors of the probate process are often something that many people dread, but with the help of a skilled attorney, this process doesn’t have to be as difficult as most think. Fortunately, there are attorneys out there who specialize in this field, making their services perfect for those who are looking to ease the burden of dealing with an estate. When searching for a probate attorney, there are several qualities you should look for when determining whether or not they’re right for your case. These tips will help you find the best probate attorney for your needs.

10 Qualities of the Best Probate Attorney

Honesty and Transparency

Honesty and transparency are two of the most important qualities to look for when selecting the best probate attorney. You don’t want to hire someone who is going to deceive you or be secretive about things that you need to know. An attorney who is honest and transparent will always be upfront with you about all aspects of the case and will provide you with all the information you need to make informed decisions. A dishonest or secretive attorney can create issues for your case, create mistrust between you and your lawyer, and cause you to miss important deadlines and facts that could affect your case. If a potential attorney displays these qualities during your initial meeting with them, you need to walk away from the situation immediately.


Another important quality to look for in the best probate attorney is expertise. You want to hire someone who has experience with the field, who has dealt with many cases like yours, and who has the skills to deal with them effectively. This will make the process go much more smoothly and allow you to rest easy knowing that you have someone on your side who knows exactly what they’re doing. For example, if you need to prove that your loved one was incompetent before their death, the attorney you hire needs to be qualified to handle that type of case. If they’re not, they’ll be unable to provide you with the assistance you need to move forward with the case, which can lead to major issues down the road. Look for someone who is qualified to handle your case so that you don’t run into any problems along the way.

Reputation and Track Record

Another important quality to look for in the best probate attorney is a good reputation and track record. You want to hire someone with a solid reputation for providing quality services and achieving positive results for their clients. You’ll also want to see what is written about them online. If a potential attorney has a poor reputation or negative reviews online, you’ll want to steer clear of them. You don’t want to hire someone who is likely to cause more problems than they solve, which is very likely if they have a poor reputation. A probate attorney with a solid reputation is one who has dealt with many cases like yours and is likely to get the job done right.


When searching for the best probate attorney, look for someone who is responsive. You want to hire someone who will respond to your emails and phone calls in a timely manner. This shows that they are organized, responsible, and serious about the work they do. A responsive attorney will also be able to get back to you quickly when you have a question for them. If you hire an unresponsive attorney, you may find yourself waiting days or even weeks for a response. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you have important questions that need to be answered. A responsive attorney will get back to you as soon as possible and make sure you have everything you need to move forward.

Willingness to Listen

Another important quality to look for in the best probate attorney is a willingness to listen. You want to hire a lawyer who is willing to listen to what you have to say and who wants to understand your goals for the case. This will help you to work more effectively with your attorney, which will make the process much easier and less stressful. An attorney who doesn’t listen to you is one who isn’t interested in what you have to say. This can lead to poor communication between you and your attorney, which can cause major issues for your case. An attorney who is willing to listen to you is someone who is interested in your opinion and goals for the case. This will make the process much easier for everyone involved.


Another important quality to look for in the best probate attorney is accessibility. When you choose to hire a probate attorney, you want to make sure that they are easily accessible. This means that you should be able to reach them via phone, email, and in person with ease. It can be incredibly frustrating to try to reach your attorney and have to wait around for days or weeks before they get back to you. This only makes the process more stressful, which is something you want to avoid. An accessible attorney will always be quick to respond to your requests and will make sure you always have access to them when you need it.

Communication Skills

Another important thing to look for in the best probate attorney is their communication skills. You want to hire someone who has strong communication skills so that you can effectively work with them throughout the process. This can include everything from reading you the instructions from the court, to writing an effective and compelling letter to the judge, to communicating with your family members. Strong communication skills will make the process much smoother for everyone involved and will help you to avoid future problems as well. Communication is an important part of the process because it helps you to understand everything that is happening, which in turn allows you to make informed decisions.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is another quality that you want to look for in the best probate attorney. This refers to the ability to control one’s emotions and understand the emotions of others. A probate attorney who has high emotional intelligence will be able to deal with their clients’ difficult emotions and make the process as easy as possible for everyone involved. An attorney who has low emotional intelligence may be unable to deal with their client’s emotions and may become frustrated when dealing with them. This could lead to unprofessional conduct, which is something you want to avoid at all costs. A probate attorney with high emotional intelligence is someone who is able to understand their client’s emotions and get past them to help the process move along as smoothly as possible.

Passion for the Job

Another important quality to look for in the best probate attorney is a passion for the job. You want to hire someone who is passionate about helping people and who enjoys the work they do. This will make the attorney more likely to excel at their job and get the results you want, which is something that can only be helpful in your case. A probate attorney who is passionate about their job will be able to deal with the challenges of the job and get past the difficult emotions that come with it. They will be able to easily deal with difficult clients and make the process as easy as possible for everyone involved. This will make the process much easier for you and will help you to move through it much more quicker.

Compassion for Clients

The final quality to look for in the best probate attorney is compassion for clients. You want to hire someone who cares about their clients and who wants to make their experience as easy as possible. A probate attorney who has compassion for their clients is one who will work their hardest to make sure that you get the best results possible. A probate attorney who doesn’t care about their clients is one who only cares about winning the case and collecting their paycheck. This is something that is likely to cause issues for the case, and it will make the process more stressful for everyone involved. A probate attorney who has compassion for their clients is someone who wants to win their case, but also wants to make sure the client gets what they deserve as well.

Read more probate tips here in relation to debts.

Need the Best Probate Attorney? We Can Help

To ensure that your assets go to the right place, contact Lewman Law for the best probate attorney in Livermore and a consultation for a simple will, trust, or other estate planning vehicle. If you’ve been named the executor of an estate and need legal assistance, you can also request a consultation with the best probate attorney by clicking this link.

Filed under Legal Services

California Inheritance Law as Explained by Lawyers for Inheritance

When you think about estate planning, the first things that probably come to mind are wills, trusts, and other documents that help you pass your assets on to the people and organizations you choose after you’re gone, which is why lawyers for inheritance are needed for this one. But there’s more than that to estate planning. After all, what good is transferring assets if they can be taken by someone else after you die? Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect your assets so they can only go to someone of your choosing.  As with any legal topic, inheritance and estate planning laws in California are dense and complex. To understand how the right planning can protect your assets from being seized by someone else after your death, here is an introduction to some of the key concepts in California inheritance law.

Taxes and inheritance law are important

Despite the absence of estate or inheritance taxes in California, handling an estate is not a simple matter. California inheritance law still has quite a few obligations for the estate and personal representative. Here is an overview.

There is no estate or inheritance tax in California, but the estate still has to file tax returns.

A will can be used to structure California inheritance law to your advantage.

Having a valid last will and testament in place makes administering an estate a lot easier. In California, a will is considered valid if it names beneficiaries, designates an executor/personal representative, and specifies a guardian for any children.

A probate case must be opened if the estate comprises life insurance, retirement benefits, or real or personal property of any value. If the estate is valued under $150,000 and has been in existence for at least forty days since the death of the person, an Affidavit for Transfer of Personal Property may be filed. Once the affidavit has been issued, the custodian of the deceased’s property (for example, a bank) must relinquish it.

If you die without a will in California, your estate will be distributed according to the California Probate Code

A person who dies without a valid will is said to have died intestate. The court will appoint an executor to administer the estate and pay the estate’s debts and expenses. In addition, the court will divide the estate’s assets according to California inheritance laws.

During a marriage, all property and assets acquired are considered community property, and all debts incurred are likewise considered community debts. For the purposes of this article, a domestic partner is considered a spouse, and a domestic partnership is considered a marriage. (Community property refers to all property and assets acquired during a marriage.)

During a marriage, if one spouse receives inheritances or gifts and keeps them separate, keeping them distinct from marital funds, they are considered to be separate property. Assets acquired before the marriage or after a divorce are also considered to be separate property.

The California inheritance laws are comprehensive and complex, extending to uncles and aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews, as well as grandparents and other relatives. We will discuss the closest relatives here, although inheritance laws apply to a wide range of relatives. Half-siblings are treated the same as full siblings, for example.

If an individual dies with just a partner and no other related people, all the community and individual belongings are inherited. If a baby dies, his or her property (which is all individual property since there is no ‘community’) passes first to parents or siblings.

If a person dies with a spouse and children, the spouse inherits the decedent’s percentage of community property (all of which would then be in the spouse’s possession). If there is just one child, that child inherits one-half of the separate property; if there are multiple children, they receive two-thirds of the separate property in equal amounts. The remaining one-third or one-half of the separate property, in addition to the spouse’s inheritance, is inherited by the spouse.

When a person dies with a spouse and surviving parents (but no children), the decedent’s portion of community property and one-half of the separate property is inherited by the spouse. The parents receive the other half of the separate property if the decedent had surviving siblings but no surviving parents.

There are certain things to keep in mind

In the absence of near relations, the heirs are the subject’s aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, great aunts and great uncles, cousins, and children, parents, and siblings who outlive the deceased’s spouse.

A child born in a marriage is considered to be the child of both spouses, regardless of the biological parentage. Even if a parent dies, the child still has the right to inherit, and if genetic material is extracted two years after the parent’s death and used to create a child (with permission being given while the parent was still alive), the parent is still considered to be the legal parent and the child has a right to inherit.

A relative conceived after the decedent died but born before the decedent died also has inheritance rights as described above.

Unless the court decides that an adoption would have taken place except for a legal technicality, step-parents, step-children, and foster children are not entitled to inherit. This is not always easy to establish.

A relative who deliberately murdered someone cannot inherit if the victim was deprived of inheritance rights. An undocumented immigrant, on the other hand, can inherit if he or she is related to the victim.

As a rule, life insurance policies, pensions, and other retirement accounts specify beneficiaries. When the beneficiary is named, the funds are passed directly to the beneficiary and are not part of the decedent’s estate. The estate may be named as a beneficiary, and, if the decedent died without a will, the funds would be distributed according to state guidelines or the decedent’s will.

Our Lawyers for Inheritance Can Help

To ensure that your assets go to the right place, contact our lawyers for inheritance here at Lewman Law for a consultation for a simple will, trust, or other estate planning vehicle. If you’ve been named the executor of an estate and need legal assistance, you can also request a consultation.

Filed under Legal Services