To put it simply, a codicil is an amendment to an existing will. Creating a new will when circumstances change, or when the individual changes his or her mind, can be expensive. If the desired change or addition is not complex, stating the new wishes in a codicil is the easiest, and least expensive, way to update a will. Codicils are often used to add or revoke certain provisions of an existing will. All of the legal requirements for making an original will apply to the creation of codicils. To explore this concept, consider the following codicil definition.
Definition of Codicil
- A supplement, amendment, addition, or explanation added to an existing Last Will and Testament.
1375-1425 Late Middle English < Latin cōdicillus
What is a Codicil
A codicil is an official amendment to an existing will, used to add something, or to remove something, as a will, once signed and witnessed, cannot be physically changed. While there are no laws regarding when a codicil can, or should be, used to make changes to a will, it is commonly used when the changes are minor. Such minor changes might include adding or removing
These changes may include adding or deleting gifts, or changing the named personal representative. When major changes are needed, such as adding a new spouse as the beneficiary, or eliminating a previously named beneficiary, creating a new will is recommended. In order for a person to create a will or a codicil, he or she must be mentally competent.
Requirement for a Codicil to a Will
A codicil, by definition, does not replace the original executed will. Rather, it acts as an amendment, and it must meet certain legal requirements. For example, a codicil must contain the signature of the testator, as well as the signatures of two or three witnesses who are not parties to the will. While in many states, all signatures must be made in front of a notary public, other states allow the testator to sign before a notary public without witnesses.
These strict signature requirements are for the purpose of preventing unauthorized people from making changes to a will. When a codicil to a will is created, it should be placed with the original document. Filing a will and any codicils with the local probate court may help eliminate confusion in the future, but it is not required.
A codicil form must meet the legal requirements in the state where it will be filed. A handful of states will accept a handwritten codicil form, but this is not the norm and it may be ruled invalid by a judge. Regardless of the form used, a codicil should contain specific information, including the exact provision it is being used to change. The codicil form should be dated, and it is a good idea to state that other items within the will are not being modified. Due to the complexity involved with creating wills and codicils, many people find it helpful to enlist the help of an attorney experienced in estate planning or probate law.
Anyone may find a codicil sample available online at various estate planning websites. Codicil sample forms may vary in appearance, but they all include the same basic information. People who are not experienced in creating wills, or their amendments, may be able to get a codicil sample form, as well as assistance in the creation of their will or a codicil, from a local attorney. A basic codicil sample is as follows:
Codicil to the Last Will and Testament of
I, ____________________________, residing at _____________________________ (Testator’s Address) ___________________ (City), _______________________ (State), being of sound mind, declare this Codicil to my Last Will and Testament (“Will”) dated ___________________, _______, effective as of today, ___________________________, __________. (Include the date the codicil should go into effect)
Article __________ (section to be changed) of my Last Will and Testament shall be modified to read:
Article __________ of my Last Will and Testament is removed in its entirety.
Article __________ Last Will and Testament shall be added and will read:
Revoking a Previously Created Codicil
On occasion, especially when changes to a will are made frequently, a person is faced with altering or revoking a codicil itself. When this occurs, a new codicil must specify the revocation of the previous one. This is done to prevent the courts from following the earlier codicil against the wishes of the testator.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Amendment – An official change made to a form or document.
- Beneficiary – A person named in a will or trust as the intended recipient of assets or property.
- Bequest – Giving or leaving something to a person as stated in a will.
- Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
- Probate Court – The section of the judicial system that deals with matters relating to wills, trusts, estates, guardianships, and conservatorships.
- Testator – A person that has created a will.