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Is a will still valid even if heirs have changed names?

You may have written a will or gone through exhaustive estate planning, covering all your bases. You have backup beneficiaries designated, and quite a few backup plans in case Plan A falls through.

However, one thing you may wonder about is whether your will is still valid when your heirs and beneficiaries have different names than those listed in your documents. For example, perhaps two of your female heirs got married, and your will lists their maiden names only. Moreover, maybe one of your heirs came out as transgender after you drew up the will and has undergone a legal sex and name change. Or maybe you realize you misspelled a name. Is your will still valid?

Yes, it should be

In a nutshell: Yes, your will should still be valid. If you left your house and some assets to Jane Smith who is now Jane Jones, the house and assets still go to her. However, the process of receiving the money and assets may be just a little more complicated for her. She likely will need to show documents that identify the name change.

The same idea applies if you misspell a beneficiary's name, for example, writing "Kelley Doe" when it should have been "Kelly Doe." That said, it could present a problem in probate if there is a "Kelley Doe" in your life who wants to make a case for being the true beneficiary. In such a situation, it is best to update your will with the proper spelling. Suppose that the death has already occurred, though. If your lawyer or executor can show what your intentions were and that you often misspelled Kelly's name in other documents, there should, hopefully, not be an issue.

Intentions matter in wills, first and foremost. Names do not necessarily have to be properly spelled or even entered in full for property and assets to go to the intended heirs. That said, if your misspelling is so bad that your intent becomes unclear, it can actually be a big problem.

Bottom line: It can interfere with your peace of mind to worry about what might happen. If a name change has occurred, or a misspelling has been discovered, updating your will should be easy. It could be that there are other good reasons to update, too.

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Hottenroth, Garverick, Tilson & Garverick, Co., L.P.A.
126 S. Market St.
Galion, OH 44833

Phone: 419-468-5044
Fax: 419-468-1308
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