Codicils: Also Known as Amendments to Your Will
When you write your will, you don't anticipate anything will change by the time it becomes enforceable. Oftentimes, however, either circumstances or the way you think about a certain provision will change. When the change you want to make is relatively small, rather than executing an entirely new will, you can instead execute a codicil.
A codicil is an amendment to a will that can be used to add or revoke elements of the will. The aspects of the will which are not affected by the codicil will remain in force when the will becomes effective.
For example, if you are a car collector, and in your prior will you left a Ferrari to your son, but now you have sold the Ferrari and wish to gift your Lamborghini instead, you can use a codicil to achieve that change. Likewise, if you want to change the beneficiary in your will, such as will leaving the car to your other son, for example, a codicil can achieve that change.
Three Tips When Executing a Codicil
Keep these three things in mind if you want to ensure codicil is honored.
You must make sure that:
- You are Specific and Your Intent is Clearly Stated: if there is a conflict between your will and your codicil, then your previously drafted and properly executed will controls. (Also, take note that it may not be the last will that you executed, but rather the last properly executed 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: in order to be legally enforceable, a codicil must be executed in the same manner that wills are executed in your state. Often, this means that a certain number of witnesses must be present, and other legal recitations, such as regarding mental stability, are present, and in many states it must also be notarized. If your jurisdiction recognizes holographic (handwritten) wills --which have their own statutory requirements--then holographic codicils will also be recognized and enforceable, by the same logic.
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 with divorce, remarriage, or adoption, then you might consider drafting an entirely new will to reflect your changed circumstances.
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