What is a Codicil?
A codicil is a legally-binding document that updates a last will & testament. Its name comes from Latin for “a short writing tablet”. The term fits, as codicils are (usually) short documents that update 1-3 entries in an existing will.
Why Do People Write Codicils?
Over time, circumstances change. What made sense in the past might not in the present. For this reason, individuals who have already filed Last Will & Testaments may want to amend its provisions. A codicil allows you to do this.
Why would you write a codicil? It makes sense to edit your will if:
- You wish to add new beneficiaries
- You wish to remove existing beneficiaries
- A beneficiary has passed away
- Promised gifts no longer exist
- You wish to change how you will distribute your estate
- You wish to name a new executor
This list is not exhaustive. If you have a Last Will & Testament you want to change, you must write a codicil.
How Do I Make a Codicil?
Last Will & Testaments can be long and complicated. By contrast, codicils are concise, to-the-point legal documents. Because they update a few entries at most, you can usually confine a codicil to a single page.
What does a codicil look like? It starts with a declaration of identity. At the top, the testator (you) declares their name and address, as well as the date of the codicil. Beneath this, you’ll declare your amendments to your original Last Will & Testament.
Below are the terms of your codicil. In them, you declare the date when the amendments of your Last Will & Testament will take effect. You’ll also reaffirm the validity of unedited sections of your will.
For your codicil to be valid, though, you’ll need two witnesses. These witnesses need not be the ones who oversaw the signing of your original will. Complete this step, and your codicil will be officially valid in the eyes of the law.
Do I Need to Notarize a Codicil in America?
No. In most states, you only need to sign your codicil before two witnesses that aren’t beneficiaries. However, some states are moving towards eliminating the witness requirement. In these jurisdictions, you would be able to draft a codicil and sign it in front of a notary public.
You don’t need a notary public to amend your Last Will & Testament. Soon, however, they might make the process easier.
A Codicil Might Not Be Your Best Option
Most Last Will & Testaments only require minor tweaks. However, major life changes might necessitate wholesale changes. In this scenario, you’re better off redrafting your will than writing a complicated codicil. That’s why lately, more and more people are chosing to use online will makers. Never used one? We have reviewed a bunch so you can easily compare online will makers and choose the one that better suits your needs.
If you only want to make a couple of changes, a codicil is fine. However, as a general rule, anything more than three changes is too much. Your executor will be dealing with enormous amounts of stress – don’t make them decipher dozens of confusing amendments.
Then, there’s the issue of reputation. If you remove someone from your will via codicil, everyone will know you did it. However, if you redraft the will, nobody will be aware that a previous version existed.