What is a will codicil, and when can I use a codicil to change my will?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A codicil is a document executed after a will is in effect, and is generally used to update a will. Although a codicil can be useful in some circumstances, such as when only a small change to a recent will is made, it is sometimes advisable to simply begin with a fresh will to avoid the confusion that multiple or complicated codicils can cause.

When to Use a Will Codicil

Codicils are useful for any small, inconsequential changes to a will. Examples of changes that can be made using a codicil include distribution of property that you forgot to mention in the will, a name change of one of the beneficiaries or additional instructions for your burial.

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When Should I Update My Will?

If the changes you are making are substantial or directly affect the original beneficiaries, you should update your will instead of using a will codicil. Examples of times to update a will include marriage, divorce, change of address, birth or adoption of a new child, large change in assets such as a new car or house and a desire to include new beneficiaries or exclude old beneficiaries.

How Do I Create a Will Codicil?

A codicil requires specific phrasing and must follow the same execution (signing) rules as a will. This means that the codicil must be signed by you in the presence of 3 witnesses and a notary. Make sure the wording of your codicil is correct by using a codicil form.

How to Update a Will

Whenever you create a new will, you must revoke all of the old wills and codicils. If you do not, the court will acknowledge both wills and only follow the new will where the two disagree. In order to avoid this problem, place a revocation of wills and codicils provision in your new will. After revoking your old wills and codicils, write a new updated will with the necessary changes.

You may also wish to consult with an attorney to help you write either a codicil or a new will to ensure your wishes are respected.

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