How do you write a codicil to an existing will?

A codicil to a will is a legal document that allows you to make necessary changes to your existing last will and testament.

Before writing a codicil, you, as the testator, will need to check your eligibility for writing one and familiarize yourself with the essential legal requirements and steps involved in the process — from reviewing an old will to drafting and executing a codicil.

When does it make sense to write a codicil?

Imagine you had previously created a detailed and legally binding last will and testament.

Since then, you’ve remarried and now wish to include your new spouse and new family members as a beneficiary and redistribute your assets.

A codicil can help you make minor changes while keeping the original will intact.

Instead of recreating the entire last will, you can write an addendum in cases like these:

  • You need to add specific changes to your most recent last will.
  • Life events have impacted the distribution of your assets.
  • You need to modify the terms in an established trust to provide for your children’s expenses.
  • You want to change the appointed executor or guardian.
  • While keeping the main parts of your last will, you want to make targeted updates.

In contrast, there are situations where creating a completely new will may be a better choice:

  • You want to implement substantial changes to the existing last will.
  • You’re reevaluating your assets and beneficiaries.
  • You’ve inherited significant wealth or property.
  • Multiple life events have affected various aspects of your estate planning.

Who can create a codicil?

Any individual who is of sound mind and meets the legal requirements for becoming a testator can also create a codicil.

Laws may vary from state to state, so check the specific regulations of the state where you reside.

You can write a codicil on your own, but note that making changes through a codicil can be complicated.

Advice from a legal professional or a law firm can help you navigate necessary legal implications and avoid any unintended issues.

What changes do you include in the codicil?

Say you drafted your last will a few years ago, but your life’s since taken a turn.

Now, you’re uncertain about how to adjust your wishes in the documents.

Here are some common changes you can reflect upon when deciding what to put in an addendum:

Marriage or divorce

If you recently got married or divorced, create a codicil to include or remove your spouse as a beneficiary.

Changes in bequests

Perhaps you’ve acquired new funds, assets, or property that you want to distribute differently among your beneficiaries.

Relocation to another state

If you’ve moved to a different state, consider writing a codicil to align your last will with local legislation.

Child adoption

If you’ve adopted minor children, you may want to include them as beneficiaries of your assets.

A new guardian for minor children

If you wish to designate a different guardian for your minor children, you need a codicil to document this change.

Remember to seek legal advice from a reputable law firm to ensure that your wishes will get executed according to the law and to create a legally valid codicil.

How do you write a legally valid codicil?

To create an addendum, follow the steps below.

Conversely, consider using PandaDoc’s Last Will and Testament template if you find that creating a new last will is a better option.

Review your existing will

As a testator, take your time to review your existing will and identify areas that require updates or any change of heart you may have had.

Decide on the specific changes 

Pinpoint the exact amendments you wish to make, such as changing beneficiaries, revising how you distribute assets, or appointing a new guardian for minors. 

Consult with a legal professional

Turn to a legal advice expert or estate planning lawyer to make your codicil and will legal, complying with legal requirements and accurately reflecting your wishes. 

Draft your codicil 

Prepare the addendum using clear and legally appropriate language to outline the changes you want to make to your last will.

Clearly state the purpose of the changes

Express your intentions behind the amendments in the codicil to prevent misinterpretation and avoid making your will invalid.

Execute the codicil according to legal requirements

Sign the addendum in the presence of at least two witnesses who are not beneficiaries, guardians, or executors.

You can also attach a self-proving affidavit, signed with the assistance of a public notary, to expedite the probate process.

Keep copies of the signed codicil in a safe place

Retain copies of the executed codicil in a secure location; for example, in a safe or with your attorney who can both easily access and safeguard the codicil.

Communicate the updates to all parties

Inform beneficiaries, executors, and guardians about the changes you’ve made in the codicil.

Regularly review and update the codicil

You may revisit your codicil whenever having doubts about your wishes or the need for further changes. This is crucial for your peace of mind!

How many codicils can you have?

No state law restricts the number of addendums you may have. If you find the need to make further changes to your last will, consult with your attorney to draft additional codicils.

While codicils offer flexibility to make changes to your last will, having numerous separate documents could complicate matters during the administration of your estate.

Multiple codicils may confuse the beneficiaries and executors.

Secure your evolving wishes with a legally valid codicil

As life brings changes, you may need an addendum to your last will to update your wishes.

By creating a legally binding codicil, you can accurately reflect your desires.

The family of PandaDoc templates offers user-friendly forms to create your last will and testament and add the needed number of codicils.

PandaDoc’s notary platform is also available to help you finalize legally valid documents to protect your legacy.

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