A codicil to a will is a document that amends the last will and testament. If there is a small part of your will that you wish to change, you may use this document rather than rewriting the entire will. The codicil to the will may add or revoke certain provisions or powers, such as changing the executor of your estate; change how or to whom property is distributed; change who receives what percentage of money; adds details to how or when heirs receive money or property; or other small changes.
Think of codicils to wills like footnotes in a document: they provide details or make small changes, but more extensive information would be better served in a different section or by a rewrite.
How is a Codicil to a Will Used?
A codicil to a will takes just as much legal effort as writing a new will, so it is important to consider how many changes you wish to make. If you only want to make one or two minor changes, then a codicil might be faster to write. If you wish to make numerous changes, or you have written other codicils in the past, your best option might be to rewrite the will. Either way, you will need a notary and witnesses to sign the new document.
Codicils work well if you wish to change names of beneficiaries, note a divorce or remarriage, adding a new asset like your digital assets, add or change the name of an executor, add a secondary executor, or modify conditions or restrictions on property or money that beneficiaries receive. Larger changes, such as changing all beneficiaries or how much they receive may work better by rewriting the entire will.
A downside for many who write codicils is that the codicil to the will does not fit seamlessly into the document. If the codicil turns out to be more complex than intended, then you might consider simply rewriting your will.
Elements of a Codicil to a Will:
A codicil to a will must be signed by two witnesses and a notary to be valid. Different local laws may require a different number of witnesses, but in general, these documents are legally binding and it is important to ensure that you are of sound mind when you make the changes.
- You will also want to include the following as part of the codicil to the will:
- Title of the document
- Your information and the date the codicil was written (to be compared to the date the will was written)
- Opening paragraph explaining how you wish to modify your will
- Identify which article, paragraph, or page you wish to amend
- State clearly that your codicil to the will makes permanent changes to the contents of the will and overrules anything that contradicts the codicil
- Reaffirm your last will and testament (or living will, in some cases)
- Be sure to proofread your codicil to will to make sure that your wishes are clearly stated and it is obvious that you made the change while of sound mind. Be sure to have witnesses and a notary sign the document!
Download our free codicil to will template for help starting your changes. If you have a complex will or estate, consider consulting an attorney before writing a codicil to your will or deciding to rewrite your will entirely.