Using a Codicil to change your Will

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A last will and testament prepared at a relatively young age will rarely meet your needs years later. Wills can be “updated” in one of two ways:

(1) you can execute an amendment to your will, called a codicil, or

(2) you can replace your will with a completely new will.

When to Revise a Will

The most common circumstances for updating a will are:

  • You wish to change who you want to receive your property
  • You wish to change how your property is to be divided
  • You wish to change your executor, or alternative executor
  • You acquire new property or no longer have certain items of property
  • There are changes in beneficiaries due to deaths, marriages, or births
  • You wish to change the designation of a guardian for minor children
  • Provisions for your children need to change because they are no longer minors
  • Changes are required to address tax consequences to beneficiaries

What is a Codicil?

The definition of codicil is: “an addition or supplement to a will, either to add to, remove, or alter the provisions of the will.” A codicil to a will does not revoke the will, but merely changes one or more parts of the will. Both the will and the codicil are admitted to probate.

How to Change a Will with a Codicil

Changing a will with a codicil is very similar to writing a will. In any codicil form there will be a title, an opening paragraph, the changes you are making, the proper signatures and statements of the person making the codicil, the witnesses, and the notary public.

Title and Opening Paragraph

The title should be the same as that of your will, with the words “Codicil to the” before it. For example, if Jane Wanjiku will is titled “Last Will and Testament of Jane N. Wanjiku,” his codicil should be titled “Codicil to the Last Will and Testament of John N. Wanjiku.”

It is important to refer to the will you are changing, including its date of execution.

Changes

The codicil Will indicate which paragraph of the will is being changed, and set forth the revised paragraph. For example, if paragraph three of your will says:

Paragraph Three. I give, devise, and bequeath all my estate, real, personal, and mixed, of whatever kind, to John shikuku.

A codicil might say:

Paragraph Three of my Last Will and Testament is hereby amended to read as follows:

Paragraph Three. I give, devise, and bequeath all my estate, real, personal, and mixed, of whatever kind, to John Shikuku and Sikuyetu Leo in equal shares.

If you are changing more than one paragraph of your will, you will indicate the number of each paragraph being changed, and set forth the new language of each paragraph.

To completely delete paragraph Four, you could write: “Paragraph Four of my Last Will and Testament is hereby deleted in its entirety.”

To add a new paragraph, you could write: “My Last Will and Testament is hereby amended to add the following as Paragraph Seven,” then state the new paragraph.

Closing Paragraphs

After you have set forth all of the changes to your will, you should insert the following paragraphs:

In the event that any statement in this Codicil contradicts the terms of my Last Will and Testament dated {insert the date of the will}, the terms of this Codicil shall control.

In all other respects I reaffirm and republish my Last Will and Testament dated {insert the date of the will}.

There will also be spaces for the person making the codicil (the testator), the witnesses, and the notary public to sign and fill in the date.

Legal Formalities for a Codicil

Codicils must be executed in the same manner as a will-that the codicil be signed by the testator, and that there be witnesses, who generally must watch the testator and each other sign. There must be two witnesses.

Where to Keep Your Codicil

You should store your codicil with your will. You should also keep a copy of the codicil, and give a copy to anyone else who has a copy of your will.

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