If you want to make changes to your Will, you may consider using a Codicil. A Codicil is a method for making changes to an existing Will so that you can add beneficiaries, change the distribution of assets and update clauses. Although this is a fast and efficient way of changing your Will, it is not always the best option. For changes that are not straightforward, it is better to avoid confusion by creating a new Will altogether.
What is a Codicil?
Like your original Will, a Codicil is a legally binding document. It is used to make alterations to your existing will in some cases. However, in other situations it can be better to make a new Will altogether.
For the Codicil to be legally valid, it must be executed in the same manner as a Will. It must be signed and witnessed, and ideally it should be prepared by a legal professional.
Why make changes to your Will?
You can change your Will as often as you like; you do not need to have any significant changes in your circumstances. However, some of the common reasons why people decide to amend their Will include:
- Getting married. Your spouse will often automatically become your next of kin, but you may like to make provisions for your parents and others as well.
- Getting divorced or separated. You may no longer want your ex-partner to benefit from your Will, or you could decide to keep them as a beneficiary.
- Buying property. Significant assets, such as a family home, should be specially considered in your Will.
- Starting a business. Investing a lot of your money into a business venture can mean you need to make provisions for the future of the business.
- Having children. Many parents want to leave specific items and assets to their children.
When should you use a Codicil?
Codicils are only intended for making minor changes to your Will. It does not replace your Will, but it acts as an amendment. This means that it cannot contradict any part of the original Will, or cause confusion for the executor.
You should use a Codicil when making changes such as appointing a new executor to your Will, changing the beneficiaries for property or other assets, granting special gifts or removing them from certain beneficiaries, updating clauses, or cancelling section of your Will. Always work with a professional to ensure that your Codicil is legally valid.
Codicils are fast and effective, making them an easy way to make small changes to your Will.
When should you make a new Will?
If the changes you want to make are more complex, it is recommended that you make a new Will rather than add a Codicil to your existing Will. This prevents any confusion and will make it easy to determine what your final wishes are when you die.
Some of the major changes that warrant the creation of a new Will include removing a beneficiary altogether, bequeathing a specific amount of money to a person or organisation that is not part of your family, or adding a significant asset to your Will.
Each time you make a new legally valid Will, your previous Will is revoked. Nothing from this document will be considered valid.
Things to consider when making changes to your Will through a Codicil
For a Codicil to be legally valid, it must be free of any errors. Failure to work with an experienced legal professional when creating your Codicil can make the document null and void, meaning the specifications of your original Will will be followed unchallenged.
All amendments to your Will must contain the date of the original Will, details of the person submitting the Codicil, and the correct reference to the original Will’s changes. All documents should be stored together to avoid confusion or delays when it is time to execute the Will.
Codicils are able to be used for revoking or reviving a Will. This means an earlier version can be made valid, and an existing Will can be annulled. This also applies for specific section of the Will. Be very careful that you check which version you are working with and that you don’t accidentally revoke parts that you want to remain included.
Who can I ask for help with Codicils?
You can find experts in Wills and estate law that can help you to prepare your Will and advise you on important aspects of creating a Will or a Codicil, including choosing an executor, succession planning, guardianship matters, setting up a testamentary trust and more.
It is advisable to always work with an experienced lawyer when creating or changing a Will, especially if you have a significant or complex estate. Lawyers can provide personalised advice and work to understand your circumstances so you can make the best decision.