Can the executor of a Will be changed without rewriting the Will?

Asked on January 30, 2013 under Estate Planning, Indiana


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

A Will can be updated by using what is known as a "codicil". This is a document executed after a Will is in effect; it is an amendment to a exisiting Will. A codicil can be useful in some circumstances, such as when only a small change to a recent Will needs to be made. However, it is sometimes advisable to begin with new Will to avoid the confusion that complicated codicils can cause. The general rule is that codicils are appropriate for small, inconsequential changes to an exisitng Will. For example, a name change of one of the beneficiaries or replacing the person named as executor (as in your case).

If the changes being made are substantial, you should execute a new Will entirely (i.e. not use a codicil). For example, if the update has to do with a new marriage/divorce, birth/adoption of a new child, a large change in assets, etc. Additionally, depending on just when the Will was executed, drafting a new one might well be in order. A substantial change in life circumstances and/or finances would most probably dictate this. If you do choose to use a codicil, it requires specific wording and must follow the same execution (signing) rules as a Will under applicable state law.

At this point, you may want to consult with a probate attorney to help you write either write your codicil or a new Will. This way you can be sure that your wishes regarding the distribution of your estate are carried out.

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