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Codicil: What is it? How Should It Be Used?

More often than not, after you create your will, you might need to make changes using a codicil. Whether you need to add a particular gift or change the named executor, you need to follow the proper protocol to update your will, so it remains valid.

What is a codicil?

A codicil is a document used to make any alterations to your existing will. It acts as a testamentary document that’s similar to a will but not identical.

For the document to be legally valid, it must be signed and executed the same way a will is. This means the will-maker must sign, and witnesses must be present. It’s then attached to the copy of the original will.

Depending on the changes you need to make, it can sometimes be better to create an entirely new will.

When is it used?

A codicil is used to make minor changes to a will, and because everyone’s situation is different, there are no standard forms to be completed. These changes can include:

  • Changing an executor or appointing a new one
  • Removing specific gifts or adding new ones to a beneficiary
  • Explaining or updating a particular clause
  • Changing the beneficiaries for property
  • Outlining what happens to a pet
  • Cancelling the entire will or a part of it

In some cases, the document can be used to revive an earlier revoked will. Whatever the reason, it’s always best to seek professional advice when amending a part of your will.

Things you should consider

Even though the changes you’re making to your will might be small, there are a few things you should pay attention to so you don’t make any errors.

The structure of the document

When making any changes, the amendment must contain the date of the original will, details of the person submitting the codicil, and the correct reference to the original will’s changes.

Applying for probate

When the executor needs to apply for a probate grant, the original will and codicil documents must be submitted. This is why it’s so important that the will and all of its changes are stored together. Anything missing can delay obtaining probate.

Revoking vs reviving a will

Codicils can either revoke a specific part of an existing will or revive an earlier version. In either circumstance, you need to take extra care so an entire will isn’t revoked or the wrong version is restored.

Common problems

A few problems can occur if you’re not careful. These include writing the wrong date of the will you’re amending, the choice of words when amending it, and losing the original codicil document.

Change an existing will or make a new one?

Depending on the changes that need to be made, a codicil is a fast and effective way to make minor changes to your will. With that said, if the changes are not straightforward and simple to make, it’s recommended to create an entirely new will.

By making a new one, you reduce the risk of losing the codicil and difficulties interpreting the will later on. As always, it’s best to seek professional guidance if you’re unsure whether or not it makes better sense to create an entirely new will for the changes you wish to make.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.

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