What Is a Codicil? Here’s What You Need to Know

Life is full of unexpected changes, and sometimes that means you need to adjust your plan for it. A codicil is one tool for doing that – a legal document that lets you amend a portion of a will. It is generally used for minor changes, since it alters the will but leaves most of the document intact, and can be stored alongside a will so that executors will be aware of any changes before they sort out the deceased’s estate. 

People can write out a codicil on their own or seek legal help when they do so. They may require a new will instead of a codicil if significant changes are needed. This guide will take an in-depth look at what a codicil is and when to use it in your estate planning. It will also explore how to ensure a codicil is legally binding and will be executed properly. 

When to Get a Codicil

No guidelines are set in stone for people to get a codicil. It may be a good idea to use this approach if you only need to make a single change to a will, or if the change will alter less than 10% of how an estate is divided up. Here are four instances in which a codicil may prove to be a viable option:

1. Executor Needs to Be Changed 

Those who need to update their will executor can use a codicil to do so. 

2. Removal of a Beneficiary

There may be times when a family member or someone else passes away and needs to be removed from a will as a beneficiary. Using a codicil allows an individual to update their will’s beneficiaries as needed. 

3. Revised Funeral Wishes

A will can dictate how an individual’s funeral will be handled, and a codicil lets a person update their will to ensure their funeral wishes meet their expectations. 

4. Updated Beneficiary Name

If a will beneficiary changes their name, a codicil can be used to make the update. 

A codicil isn’t always the right answer when you need to make changes to your will. Consider consulting with an estate-planning expert to ensure you’re taking the right approach.

When to Write a New Will

It may be more expensive and time-intensive to rewrite a will instead of using a codicil. Crafting a new will is generally the better option when life events require extensive changes, such as:

1. Marriage

Those who are newly married may want to rewrite their will to account for their spouse. 

2. Divorce

A divorce can cause someone to rewrite their will to remove a former spouse.

3. New Beneficiary

Creating a new will lets people add new beneficiaries at any time.   

People who consider consolidating multiple codicils into a single will may be better off writing a new will altogether. These individuals can start from scratch, ensuring their new will corresponds to their needs. 

a man reading over his will

5 Tips to Update a Will

You may be on the fence about whether to use a codicil or to rewrite your will — and that’s OK. Weighing the pros and cons of both options can be challenging. 

It is essential to do so, though; that way, you can make an informed decision about properly updating your will. Here are five tips to help you keep your will up to date, either by using a codicil or rewriting it: 

1. Review Your Beneficiaries

Take a look at your primary and contingent beneficiaries. If you find your beneficiaries are out of date, now is an ideal time to write a new will, so you can update them accordingly. 

2. Craft a Tangible Property Memorandum

Put together a dated and signed tangible personal property memorandum, which defines how you will bequeath personal items like jewelry, art, antiques. Keep the memorandum with your will and include details about it in your will to ensure that the executor can locate it. 

3. Be Clear and Specific

Provide as much information as you can in your will. There is no room for gray areas with estate planning. Those who explain exactly what they want to accomplish in easy-to-understand terms and phrases can verify their will is executed as expected. 

4. Avoid Handwritten Changes to Your Will

Do not mark up your will with any changes you want to make to it. These changes may be ignored if not done correctly. They can even make your entire will invalid. 

5. Seek Out Legal Assistance

Partner with an estate planning attorney who can verify that all changes to your will are legally executed. The attorney can help you decide if a codicil or a rewrite of your will is the best option based on your requested changes. 

You can update your will as often as you’d like and as much as you want. You risk invalidating your will if you’re not careful, however, regardless of how you update it. 

Common Pitfalls of Updating a Will

The importance of having a will that is thorough and valid means changes may be needed, but they also need to follow the law. Be careful to adhere to applicable legal guidelines when you update your will. These include:

  • Signing your will with at least two adult witnesses present
  • Requiring witnesses to sign your will
  • Having a notary verify the signatures of you and your witnesses 

Having a will is paramount, but it’s a legal document that remains a work in progress. Updating a will as needed is a must, because doing so allows you to verify it is accurate. If you find yours needs to be revised or rewritten, you can then meet with an estate-planning attorney to make your changes. 

Get Professional Help to Update a Will Properly

You may be among the many who have asked themselves, what is a codicil? Bogart Wealth has estate planning experts on staff who can help you craft or update a will. They can also provide estate-planning insights, enabling you to financially protect your loved ones after your death according to your wishes. 

Contact Bogart Wealth to speak with an expert about your estate-planning concerns.

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