You can alter your will with a codicil in handwriting, but it’s not always wise.
There are many reasons to alter your will—marriage, divorce, a newborn, a family squabble, or just the passing of time. Considerable life changes usually necessitate an entirely new will. But if the change is insignificant, you can alter your will with a codicil to a will.
What Is a Codicil to a Last Will and Testament?
A codicil to a will is a way to alter your will without preparing an entirely new one. A codicil is written documentation that describes directly how to alter your will. For instance, a codicil could be used to designate another executor or to leave a specific item to someone that wasn’t included in your initial will.
Codicils are not used as often nowadays as they used to be. Wills were in writing, and each minor change meant somebody had to meticulously rewrite the whole document. Codicils made it easier to alter a will. This stayed true even as wills were created using typewriters.
When to Use a Codicil for a Will
Many people think of a codicil as a way of altering a will lacking a lawyer. But a codicil usually is not the best way to make a modification to your will. Codicils oftentimes create more problems than they clear up, especially when they’re unclear or improperly signed.
For instance, say you named your brother and sister-in-law as guardians for your children, but they have now gone through a divorce, you might use a codicil to designate only your brother as their guardian.
But codicils have downsides, and a lot of estate planning lawyers favor preparing a new will. There are a lot of reasons a new will may be an ideal choice:
- A new will is more straightforward. The initial codicil to your will might be somewhat easy to comprehend, but several codicils can become complicated and may counter one another.
- There’s a possibility the codicil is going to get separated from the initial will.
- If your will is older, it might have outdated legal terminology. New documentation is going to reflect your state’s present laws concerning estates and trusts.
When thinking about a codicil, don’t forget that your estate plan’s intention is to carry out your wishes and safeguard the one’s you love. Significant life changes such as divorce, getting remarried or the birth of your first child typically calls for a new will and other estate planning documentation. This guarantees your estate plan does what you wish it to do.
How Do I Write a Codicil to My Will?
Wills are regulated by state law, and each state has their own guidelines concerning how to write a codicil to them.
Typically, a codicil should:
- Express that it’s a codicil to your will
- Establish the date in which your will got signed, so there’s no uncertainty about what will it alters
- Clearly express which portion of the will it alters
- State the changes as precisely as possible
If you write a codicil by way of a will codicil form, be sure it’s tailored to the state in which you live. A codicil is required to be signed the same way as your will.
In many states, that means it is required to be signed by you and by witnesses that aren’t beneficiaries. Don’t attempt to alter your will by crossing parts out and/or jotting down on the sides. Handwritten alterations are referred to as holographic codicils, and they are not legal in every state. States in which they are allowed, they can be convoluted and lead to challenges legally.
Overall, the best way to make an uncomplicated alteration to a will is to go back to the lawyer or online service that prepared the initial will. Your documentation is already going to be in their database, and they can easily make your change(s) and print out your new will. And you are going to have the peace of mind of knowing your
How to write a codicil to a will. LegalZoom. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2022, from https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/how-to-write-a-codicil-to-a-will
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