Posted On: JUNE 2023
On the completion of your will, you knew there would come the day when you’d need to make a change. Perhaps you recently welcomed a new grandchild to the family or maybe recently went through a divorce. Whatever the case, after a major life change, your will may need a quick fix.
Will a simple “codicil” suffice?
If you need to make a change to your will does that mean you have to completely rewrite it? Not exactly. A simple “codicil” may suffice for minor changes. A codicil is a legal document that’s treated as a supplement to an existing will. When your will is subjected to probate, so is the codicil.
Bear in mind that codicils were more prevalent in “days of yore” before personal computers. It was more time consuming and costly than it is today to replace a will. With a codicil, you only had to address one or two points — not the entire last will and testament. This is no longer a significant factor.
Furthermore, adding a codicil could create confusion relating to other parts of the will. And it’s often more convenient for everyone in the family to rely on a single document. As a result, you may redo a will instead of adding a codicil. Nevertheless, using a codicil remains the preferred approach for some people, especially for relatively small changes. To be legally binding, a codicil must be handled with the same legal formalities as a will. Therefore, it’s best to have it prepared by a qualified attorney.
What can trigger a will revision?
There are many situations that may require the need for an update of a will through a codicil or rewrite. Common examples include a:
Birth or death in the family. Maybe you didn’t have any children or grandchildren when your will was initially drafted. Now that you do, you may want the newest members of the family to share in your estate.
Change in executor. In some cases, you may have to select a new executor (or guardian or trustee). This may occur if the one you named in your will has died or become incapacitated and you haven’t made adequate contingency plans.
Tax law change. A new or revised tax law may require you to modify certain provisions to take maximum advantage of the latest rules. In addition, there’s significant uncertainty concerning the federal gift and estate tax exemption, which is scheduled to revert to its pre-2018 level of $5 million (plus inflation indexing) after 2025.
Other estate tax law changes are being contemplated by some members of Congress. When possible, revise your will to provide maximum flexibility.
What should a codicil address?
For starters, a codicil must have identifying information, including your full legal name, address, the date of the codicil, and a statement indicating that you’re of sound mind and not being coerced by someone else. Explain what parts of the will are affected. Use full legal names when referring to beneficiaries, specify dollar amounts or percentages, and describe any property in detail.
Furthermore, the codicil should state that its provisions supersede what you’ve written in your will and that all parts of the will not affected by the codicil remain in effect. Sign the codicil and have it witnessed according to state law.
Update as needed
Much can happen during the subsequent years after your will is drafted. For your estate planning wishes to be properly carried out after your death, it’s critical to talk with us about updating your will. We can help determine if a codicil is the right tool for the job.