Codicil

Codiciles play a vital role in estate planning.

It offers a practical means for testators to adapt their wills to changing circumstances.

However, they must be approached with caution.

This blog post will explore the codicils, offering a professional and legal perspective on their purpose.

What Is A Codicil?

A codicil serves as an amendment or supplement to an existing will.

Codicils enable testators to make specific changes or additions to their will.

This will be without the need to draft an entirely new will.

These changes may pertain to beneficiaries, asset distribution, or other provisions outlined in the original will.

Why Use A Codicil?

Here are some of the reasons why to use codicil.

Changing Beneficiaries: 

Life events or estrangements can prompt individuals to reconsider their chosen beneficiaries. 

A codicil allows testators to update beneficiary designations efficiently.

Altering Asset Distribution: 

Changes in acquiring new assets may necessitate modifying how assets are distributed among beneficiaries. 

A codicil offers a straightforward means of achieving this.

Appointing Executors Or Guardians: 

If a testator wishes to change the executor of their will or the guardian for their minor children.

Thus, a codicil can facilitate these adjustments.

Legal Requirements For Codicils

To ensure the validity of a codicil, several legal requirements must be met:

Testamentary Capacity: 

Like a will, the person making the codicil must have the mental capacity.

This will be to understand the nature of their actions and the impact of their changes.

Formalities: 

Codicils typically require the same formalities as wills, including the presence of witnesses and the testator’s signature.

State laws may vary on these requirements, so it is crucial to consult local statutes.

Clarity And Specificity: 

Codicils must be clear and specific in their amendments.

Ambiguity can lead to legal disputes among beneficiaries.

Reference To The Original Will: 

A codicil should reference the date and place of the original will to which it pertains.

This connection ensures that the codicil is legally tied to the will it modifies.

Potential Pitfalls And Considerations

Multiple Codicils: 

While codicils offer flexibility, numerous amendments can become cumbersome, increasing the risk of conflicting provisions.

In some cases, drafting a new will may be more advisable.

Revocation Of Codicils: 

Creating a new will revokes any prior wills and codicils.

It is essential to keep this in mind to avoid unintended consequences.

Legal Counsel: 

Given the legal intricacies of drafting and amending wills and codicils, seeking professional legal advice is strongly recommended. 

An experienced estate planning attorney helps to ensure compliance with state laws and prevent potential disputes.

Example 1 – Sarah’s Codicil To Her Will

Background Scenario: Sarah is a widow in her 70s with two adult children, Emily and James.

She originally created her will ten years ago, leaving her entire estate to Emily.

However, Sarah has now had a change of heart and wants to ensure that James receives a fair share of her estate.

Codicil:

Sarah decides to create a codicil to her will. In the codicil, she states that she wishes to amend her original will dated [date].

She specifies that, in addition to Emily, she wants James to inherit a portion of her estate as well.

Sarah outlines the specific assets or percentages she wants each child to receive, ensuring they benefit from her estate.

Example 2 – John’s Codicil To His Will

Background Scenario: John is a successful entrepreneur in his 50s, and he has no children of his own.

He has a close friend, Mary, whom he considers like a sister.

In his original will, John left the majority of his estate to various charities, with a small bequest to Mary.

However, after experiencing some health issues, John wants to make sure Mary is better taken care of in his estate plan.

Codicil:

John decides to create a codicil to his will.

In the codicil, he states he wishes to change his original will dated [date].

John specifies that he wants to increase the bequest to Mary, making it a more substantial portion of his estate.

He also wants to include specific personal items and assets that he wants Mary to inherit.

By using the codicil, John ensures that his friend Mary will be better provided for in his estate plan.

In both of these examples, codicils allow individuals to change their wills without needing to rewrite them completely.