What Is a Codicil to a Will?

by Sarah Stasik
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For many people, considering estate planning matters can be a daunting task. Thinking about what you want to happen with your assets after you pass away might seem macabre when you first consider it.

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However, creating a will is a basic estate task that almost anyone can benefit from. Your will provides you with some peace of mind that your wishes will be known and your heirs identified so they can receive the assets you want them to. Another benefit to a will is that you're not locked into today's decisions — you can make changes to your wishes later with a codicil to your will.

What Is a Codicil to a Will?

A codicil is a document that adds to or changes your will. It's a legal document, which means it might need to follow a certain format. You also have to follow through on executing the codicil in a way that makes it valid in your state.

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What Is the Purpose of a Codicil?

You can use a codicil to make a variety of changes to an existing will. This can be helpful if your circumstances or assets change, people move into or out of your life, or you change your mind about other wishes recorded in your will.

Here are a few common reasons someone might add a codicil to their will:

  • They need to add beneficiaries. Someone may have a baby, adopt a child or get married, adding new family members they want to include in their will. You could also develop new relationships or discover a passion for a charity, and those factors can lead to a desire to include new beneficiaries.
  • They need to remove beneficiaries. Someone may pass away, or a divorce might remove people from your life. In these cases, you may want to remove beneficiaries from your will.
  • They want to change their executor designation. If you listed a person in your will to be your executor and change your mind — or they become unable to honor this duty or pass away before you do — you may want to alter your will to list another executor.
  • They want to change guardianship designations. Those who have minor children may have listed a guardian for the children in their will. You might want to update guardianship information for the same reasons you'd update executor decisions.
  • They want to address specific assets. If your financial situation has changed, you may want to update specific mentions of assets in your will or add new assets you have specific plans for.

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How Do You Know If a Codicil Is Valid?

Requirements for a valid codicil to a will vary by state. Generally, a codicil must be signed by the person in the presence of two witnesses, who also sign that they witnessed the execution of the codicil. These two people should not be anyone named as a beneficiary in the will, so they can be considered true third parties.

Like wills, codicils must be executed by someone who is of sound mind — meaning they have the mental capacity to understand the outcome of what they're signing. Generally, courts presume that someone who signs a will or codicil is of sound mind. It's up to heirs or others who want to claim otherwise to make a case that the person was not of sound mind.

Other specifics about what makes a codicil valid vary by state. When amending your will with a codicil, consider talking to an experienced estate lawyer to ensure your document is valid.

What's the Difference Between a Codicil and an Amendment or Addendum to a Will?

An amendment is a change you want to make to a will. For example, if Sally named Mike as her executor and he passed away, she might now want to name Joy as her executor. This change would be an amendment. A codicil is the legal document that officially makes the amendment.

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Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of eLocal Editorial Content is subject to the

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The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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