Sometimes a person executes a document that he believes to be his last will and testament. Assuming that the document is properly drafted and executed, the will that was created is the person’s last will and testament from the time it was drafted until the time that the individual dies unless the will revoked or amended by a properly drafted and executed codicil.
What is a Codicil?
A codicil is a document that amends a will but does not replace a will. It is meant to be used when certain provisions of the will need to be changed. A codicil can be used to add or revoke elements of a will. Any part of the original will that is not amended or revoked by the codicil will remain in effect when the person passes away.
Typically, a codicil is used to change relatively small and specific provisions of the will. For example, if an individual originally left her diamond ring to her daughter and then decided to leave it to her granddaughter instead of her daughter then a properly executed codicil could be used to accomplish that bequest. Similarly, if you sold or lost the ring after the time you drafted the will then the gift you made of the ring in your will would be void and unenforceable at the time of your death. So, you might wish to leave your daughter with another piece of jewelry or personal belonging. A codicil allows an individual to avoid going through the time and expense of executing an entirely new will to make these relatively minor changes.
Make Sure Your Codicil Has the Intended Effect
There are three things to keep in mind if you want to make sure that the wishes that you articulate in your codicil are honored. You must make sure that:
- You are Specific and Clear in Your Intent: if there is a conflict in meaning between your will and your codicil then your previously drafted and properly executed will takes precedence and will control the distribution of your property. Therefore, it is important to be specific and accurate when using a codicil to amend your will.
- Your Codicil Can Be Easily Located: your codicil will have no effect if it cannot be found during the administration of your estate. For this reason, it is in your best interest to keep your codicil with your last will and testament so that the documents can be read together and your wishes can be honored.
- Your Codicil is Properly Executed: your codicil must be executed in the same way as a will must be executed in your state. Often, this means that 2 or 3 witnesses must be present and that you must state that you are of sound mind and have not been coerced into drafting the document. If your jurisdiction recognizes holographic wills then holographic codicils will also be recognized and enforceable.
A codicil is a useful document for relatively minor changes to your will. However, if you experience a substantial change in family relationships, such as a divorce or remarriage, then you might consider drafting an entirely new will to reflect your new family relationships.
Speak to an Experienced Wills Attorney Today
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified wills lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local wills attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.