The Purpose of a Codicil

Whether you have already created a Last Will & Testament or you are merely considering this essential task, you might have questions about what to do if you decide to make changes to your will later. Do you have to go through the hassle of creating an entirely new document, or is there some kind of shortcut? Fortunately, in most cases, all you need is a codicil.

Will Basics

A will is a legally-binding document that allows you to present instructions regarding your funeral preparations and distribution of your estate to loved ones. To be recognized as legally valid, your will must be signed by you and two additional witnesses who are not listed as beneficiaries. You must also show soundness of mind at the time you sign the will.

What Is a Codicil?

A codicil is a legally-binding document that makes changes to an already-existing will. It allows you to amend previous instructions regarding your final wishes without completely rewriting the original document. 

The Helpful Codicil

There are many reasons you might want to change your will — birth, death, marriage, divorce, or simple falling out. Maybe all you want to do is make different funeral arrangements. Instead of rewriting your will from scratch, all you need to do is create a codicil to make changes. 

The codicil is legally-binding and works as if it were part of the original document. The document should be stored with your will to ensure that your updated preferences are followed when your executor submits the necessary documentation to the probate court.

Codicil or New Will?

A codicil is a useful tool when you need to make straightforward changes, but there may be times when you simply need a new will. The choice mostly comes down to the complexity of the changes.  

Imagine this scenario: The instructions in your original will state that your brother is your primary beneficiary, and you named his children as backup beneficiaries. You later decide to make a change and split your state between your brother and your sister. This seems very simple, but what about the instructions for the backup beneficiaries? What happens if your brother passes away before your sister? 

Situations like this are more common than you might think and can be further complicated if the instructions in your original will are unclear. A codicil allows you to amend your will without rewriting the entire document but adds paperwork that can increase the possibility of human error. 

A codicil makes sense when you want to make minor changes, but if you wish to make more extensive amendments, consider creating a new will to ensure all instructions are clearly understood.

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