Everything You Need to Know About Codicils to Wills

Did you know that only 28% of Americans have properly updated wills? Not taking the time to update your will when your life changes can lead to issues later. If you’re interested in making an existing will more up-to-date, it is important to understand how codicils work.

What Is a Codicil?

A codicil is a type of legal document that you can attach to your will. When you add a codicil to a will, you can modify or change any part of your will. Codicils can be used to remove clauses from the will, change existing clauses or add entirely new clauses. Typically, codicils are a type of formal document written with an estate planning lawyer, but you can write one yourself if necessary.

Codicils come in a variety of different forms. For example, if your original executor passed away, you could use a codicil to name someone else. A codicil can also ensure that any new children you have will be looked after in the event of your death. If desired, codicils can remove heirs from the will, such as deciding to disinherit a sibling with whom you had a falling out. You can also use codicils if you change your mind about certain issues, such as deciding you want to be cremated instead of buried.

Benefits of Using Codicils in Your Will

There are many advantages to using codicils in your will. Typically, a codicil helps your will keep up with changes to your life. They ensure that nothing important is left out of your will and make your estate planning a lot simpler and clearer. Furthermore, a codicil is a quick and easy way to update your will. Instead of having to regularly rewrite the entire document, a codicil lets you just draft a few quick changes. You don’t have to restate things you’ve already decided, and you don’t have to write extensive legal documents.

Another great advantage of codicils is that they prevent drama after you pass away. A codicil can clear up questions like, did you really mean to leave money to your ex-wife, or, is your new step-grandchild included in the bequests to grandchildren? They help ensure your will is always accurate, so there is less of a risk of a challenge or a legal fight after you die. This gives you peace of mind, so you don’t have to worry about your heirs dealing with a lengthy court battle.

How to Add a Codicil to a Will

The basic codicil form is quite simple. It starts by listing your name, address and the date to identify you. Then you affirm that you are of sound mind and specify the part of the will that you want to change. To avoid any legal issues in the future, most will codicils should also specify that the codicil overrules one specific part of your will but does not affect any other portions. You will need to sign it yourself or have someone else sign it at your direction if you’re unable to do it.

Keep in mind that codicils have the same basic rules as a will. To be valid, they need to be properly witnessed. A codicil can still be valid without being written by a lawyer or witnessed by a notary. However, you do need two unbiased witnesses over the age of 18 to witness that the codicil was written while you were of sound mind. These witnesses need to sign the will and be available for questions if there are issues with the codicil.

If you are interested in updating your will with a codicil, The Knee Law Firm of Hackensack is here to help. We can also assist you with a variety of other estate planning tasks, including creating trusts or writing power of attorney documents. Schedule a consultation with one of our estate planning lawyers by calling (201) 996-1200 or filling out our contact form.