A codicil, you ask? We know. It sounds like some kind of prescription drug. But no, it won’t help you with your arthritis. Codicils actually have to do with wills.
A codicil is a legal document that makes a small change to your will. Codicils can save you time and hassle so you don’t have to create a whole new will every time your life changes. And they give you peace of mind knowing that your will is totally up-to-date.
Think of a codicil as a software update that fixes a few glitches in the original rollout. While they’re not used as often as they once were, they’re still a great tool to keep your will current.
Even just asking what a codicil is means you’re ahead of the curve. Great job! So, here’s everything you need to know . . .
When to Use a Codicil for a Will
If you want to make just one or two minor changes to your will, but you don’t want to totally redo it . . .
Enter the Codicil.
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For example, have you changed your mind about having Aunt Sue take care of your beloved dog? Or do you have a new grandchild you’d like to add to your will? Maybe you’ve thought twice about giving half your assets to your grand-nephew twice removed? (Yeah, that probably wasn’t a good idea.)
You guessed it. It’s codicil time!
Got married? There’s a codicil for that. Had your tenth child? Ok, that’s a lot of kids but there’s a codicil for that too!
But if your life has drastically changed—you have new property, more money or multiple new people in your life—it’s better to just go ahead and make a new will.
How to Make a Codicil
Remember. A codicil is a legal document. They’re created in the same way you would make your original will. You can write one yourself or work with a lawyer. Keep in mind you still need two witnesses to sign it. But they don’t have to be the same people who signed your will. It’s also good to bring your witnesses to the notary with you so they can notarize the “self-proved” section of the codicil. This way your witnesses won’t have to potentially go to court later to prove they witnessed it.
Here are some tips to make sure your codicil is bulletproof and crystal clear. You don’t want your executor scratching their head, wondering, What does this mean?
- Reference the date of your current will in your codicil to link them together.
- Keep your new codicil in the same physical location as your will.
- Let your family and friends know. Tell them you’ve updated your will and what the changes are.
Finally, codicils come with a few things that can come back to bite you.
- There’s nothing wrong with having a couple codicils. But be careful! Too many can make your will overly complicated. A judge can even decide your estate is unclear and throw your will out. Not good. The solution? Just limit codicils to minor changes. If the updates start to stack up, and you end up with more than two codicils, it’s better to make a new will.
- If you lose your will, don’t make a codicil to “fix” it. Just make a new will.
- Double-check your codicil against your will to make sure it isn’t contradicting anything there.
- A codicil is not you taking a red Sharpie and editing your hard-copy will. (Sorry. Nice try!) These kinds of on-the-fly changes can actually put your will at risk of being invalidated. Don’t try to cut corners with something as important as your end-of-life wishes.
Okay, so that’s a lot of information about codicils. But they’re actually pretty straightforward. And they can come in handy if you just need to tweak a few small things in your will. So every once in a while, look at your life and see if anything small has changed that would affect your will. If so, the codicil’s for you!
And remember, if your will needs major changes, it’s best to just make a new will. You can create one today. It’s easier than you think!