What is a codicil?
A codicil is a legal document used to make changes or additions to an existing will, without completely rewriting it. It’s typically used to make small changes to a will, such as adding or removing a beneficiary or changing the distribution of assets. A codicil is a separate document from the will, but it must be executed in the same manner as a will, with the same formalities and requirements.
The same as a will?
Whilst a will is a legal document that lays out a person’s wishes for the distribution of their assets after they die, a codicil document merely reflects changes to an existing will. A will can therefore exist without a codicil, but a codicil cannot exist without a will. This being said, given the importance of your will in outlining how your assets are to be distributed upon your death, there can be the need to make changes or updates to this document. This is where a codicil comes in.
When is a codicil used?
A codicil can be especially useful for making small changes to your will. This could be adding or removing a beneficiary, or changing the distribution of assets. Whilst representing a separate document from the will, a codicil must be executed in the same manner as a will, with the same formalities and requirements. We summarise a few of these situations where a codicil may be useful:
Appointing new executor of wills
Altering specific gifts
Making changes to beneficiaries
Outlining wishes for dependents; whether that's pets or young children
The advantages of codicil:
Save money & time: One of the biggest advantages of a codicil is that it allows you to make changes to your will without having to rewrite the entire document. This can save a lot of time and money, as rewriting a will can be a costly and time-consuming process. In addition, a codicil can be a more efficient way to make changes to your will, as you only need to update the specific sections that need to be changed, rather than rewriting the entire document.
Avoids second probate: Another advantage of a codicil is that it allows you to make changes to your will without having to go through the probate process again. Probate is the legal process of transferring a person’s assets after they die. If you make changes to your will after it has been probated, you will need to go through the probate process again. However, if you make changes to your will using a codicil, the changes can be made without going through probate again.
When is a codicil not a great idea?
Whilst a codicil can be a useful tool for making changes to a will, there are certain situations where it may not be the best option. For example, if you are making significant changes to your will, such as adding or removing a large number of beneficiaries, it may be more efficient to rewrite the entire will.
Additionally, if you are making changes to your will that will significantly affect the distribution of your assets, it may be a good idea to seek the advice of an attorney to ensure that the changes are legally valid. Codicils to make large changes can create confusion and interpretation hurdles during probate- which is what we want to avoid.
Ensuring your codicil is valid
When creating a codicil, it’s important to ensure it's executed properly. This includes having the document signed by the testator (the person making the will) and witnesses, and having it properly dated. It’s also important to make sure that the codicil is clearly labeled as a codicil, so that it is not mistaken for the original will. Below, we provide another few considerations to ensure your codicil is valid:
Careful storage: when applying for probate, a will must be submitted alongside any codicils. Missing codicils, or ones which are later found, could draw the will into question and draw out an already stressful and expensive process. That's why we recommend storing your will and codicil together, in a safe place
Details: ensuring things like the date and signatures are all correct is another crucial aspect to the validity of a codicil. Language can also play a tricky role here, and why we recommend seeking legal advice.
To Wrap Up:
In conclusion, a codicil is a legal document which enables you to make changes or additions to an existing will. It’s a useful tool for making small changes to your will; saving time, money and hassle of rewriting the entire document. GIven the important nature of all it overseas, it is however important to make sure a codicil is executed properly and that the changes are legally valid. If you are making significant changes to your will, it may be a good idea to seek the advice of an attorney.
Safewill can help
Safewill offers an affordable, easy and flexible way to write your will at home. You can make these small changes from the comfort of your sofa, but with the legal support of a traditional service. Get started today, with a call with one of our will experts on 1800 103 310 , or via live chat now.