Most people end up changing their first will. When you draft a Last Will and Testament, it typically includes numerous clauses related to your assets and wishes about how to distribute and entrust those assets. Consequently, a will would often need to be modified to reflect the principal's evolving needs and priorities.
To make changes to an existing will, there are two options. One is destroying the will and drafting a new document with the modifications. A Codicil allows you to make just about any change to the will, without having to annul the original. It works similarly to an agreement addendum.
A Codicil is a legal document modifying an existing Last Will and Testament. Only the principal who created the original will can draft and execute a Codicil. They cannot be completed after the death of the original principal of a will. Usually, a Codicil is used after a significant change in a principal's material assets or lifestyle calls for a shift in how those assets should be handled upon their death.
Some of a Codicil's common changes include changing the beneficiaries of assets, changing the executor or administrator of the will, and assigning guardianship of the principal's children. Once executed, the Codicil becomes an official part of the will and is as valid as any of the will's original clauses.
Depending on your state, a Codicil may also be known as:
Codicil to Will
Amendment to Will
Addendum to Last Will and Testament
Last Will and Testament Modification
Anyone who wants to modify their Last Will and Testament can use a Codicil to do so. In practice, you should only use a Codicil to make minor amendments and changes to a will. Any substantive changes to the language or the broader purpose of the will should be done with a new will.
Sometimes, a will may be executed with mistakes that make specific clauses unenforceable or difficult for the will to be administered. In those cases, a Codicil can be used not to make a change per se but to point out a mistake and offer a correction.
Typical changes made in a Codicil have to do with asset distribution, the will's executor, and funeral arrangements.
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For both your will and any Codicils to be legally enforceable, they must be drafted and executed per federal and local regulations. With our proprietary form generator, a few necessary details about your will and any additions and modifications to it are enough to generate a document that complies with your jurisdiction regulations.
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To create your document, please provide:
Governing State: The state whose laws govern this Codicil.
Execution Details: The date and location where the Codicil will be signed.
Current Will information: The date when your existing will was executed and how many previous Codicils have been made to the will.
Codicil Details: Provide a complete description of the changes and revisions you want to make to your will precisely as they appear on the Codicil.
Witnesses: Choose whether or not you know who will be witnessing the signing of the Codicil.
Testator: A person who made or is making a will.
Per Stirpes: A clause in a will that transfers assets that would go to a person to that person's inheritors if the person dies before the will is executed.
Probate: A legal process by which a court of law examines and approves the execution and administration of a will as it is written.
Intestate: If someone dies without a valid will, the person is intestate, and the state laws determine who inherits the intestate's assets.
Residuary Estate: Any assets remaining undistributed after a will is executed because they're not explicitly mentioned.
To be legally enforceable, a Codicil must be signed by the testator modifying their will and two qualified witnesses who observe the signing. The Codicil must be executed in the presence of a notary public unless it is completed in a state allowing the use of a self-proving affidavit. The self-proving affidavit is included in the Codicil.
Once it is signed, keep an executed copy of the Codicil attached to your Last Will and Testament. You may also distribute copies to beneficiaries of the will and any other person entrusted with a copy of your will.
There is no need to file a will with any state or federal records office during your lifetime. However, it will need to be filed with the will when it goes into the probate process.
Yes, there’s no legal restriction to making more than one change to your will. However, with every Codicil, you make it more difficult for your will to be executed in accordance with your wishes. It’s also easy to create contradictions and complications between Codicils that could make the probate both long and expensive.
If you only need to make small changes to the will’s intention, a Codicil is usually preferred. However, some situations are best handled by drafting a new will. Common instances when it’s better to write a new will include a new marriage if the marital status voids your previous will and if there’s a significant change in your personal assets.
To be legally eligible, an executor cannot be a minor or a convicted felon. Beyond those restrictions, you’re free to choose anyone you trust. Some states also limit executor status based on residency and your relationship to the person.
If there are contradictions, mistakes, or other obstacles to the execution of your will, it may be contested. Although any will, even one without mistakes, may be contested for various reasons, using a Codicil to plug any potential holes can prevent many contests from being accepted in probate.
In principle, no. Using a will generally ensures that your estate and anything you leave behind has to go through probate before being legally distributed. Nor can a will be used to avoid estate taxes if your assets are taxable.
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