Where your personal circumstances change, for instance, through marriage or having a child, you may decide to make a small change to your existing will. In this scenario, adding a codicil to your will may prove to be a better option than having a completely new will drawn up.
A codicil is a legal document which states any changes you wish to make to your existing will. It exists alongside your will and is only valid in relation to your will. It does not replace your existing will.
Any changes you wish to make to your will must be fully outlined in the codicil. It cannot be assumed that any repercussion of the change that is not stated in the codicil is obvious. For instance, where the amount of money to be gifted to a beneficiary is increased, it cannot be assumed that the amount of money available to other beneficiaries will be decreased. This must be stated in the codicil.
A codicil could be used in the following situations:
- to add a new child or grandchild to your will
- where you have married and want to add your new spouse to your will
- to remove a beneficiary who has died
- to change an executor, or add an additional executor
- to make a gift to a new beneficiary
- to remove or change the gift to be awarded to an existing beneficiary
- to change or appoint a guardian for your children
- to change the age at which a beneficiary receives a gift
- to change a beneficiary’s name or address
- to change your funeral plans
Copies of any codicils should always be stored with the corresponding will. However, the codicil must not be physically attached to the will as this would invalidate both documents. A copy of the codicil should be sent to anyone who holds a copy of the will.
What are the advantages of using a codicil?
Adding a codicil to your existing will is generally a less costly and less time-consuming process than having a completely new will written up.
What are the disadvantages of using a codicil?
A codicil may contravene the conditions of an existing will. This is why it is important that when any codicil is written up, it is cross-referenced with your will.
A codicil may be open to misinterpretation if it is not worded clearly and in cross-reference with the will.
Where a copy of a codicil is not kept with the corresponding will, and especially where certain related parties are unaware of the existence of the codicil, it may not be taken into consideration when administering the will. Such a scenario may also cause delays and extra expense while the codicil is located and communicated to the relevant parties.
When shouldn’t you use a codicil to change your will?
Where you wish to make a major change to your will, a codicil probably isn’t the right path to take.
Similarly, where the change you wish to make is complicated or will complicate your existing will, it is advisable to have a new will drawn up instead.
Finally, if you want to make several changes to your will in one go, it is advised to write up a completely new will instead.
Situations that would be better suited to the drawing up of a new will include, but are not limited to:
- changing the main beneficiary of your will, for instance, where you marry or divorce
- creating a trust for a new child
- removing a beneficiary from your will
Is there a set legal format for a codicil?
There is no set legal format that must be used when writing a codicil, but it must identify you as the subject of the codicil and the related will.
You may only add a codicil to your will while you are of sound mind and at least 18 years old.
The codicil must be signed and witnessed by two people who have no personal interest in the will or codicil, and who are not beneficiaries of the will or codicil.
The codicil should be numbered to ensure for clarity should subsequent codicils be drawn up.
Finally, the codicil should be written up on a separate sheet of paper to your will and not be physically attached to your will as this would invalidate your will.
Does a codicil have to be signed and witnessed by the same witnesses as your will?
No, it is not necessary that the codicil be signed and witnessed by the same individuals who signed and witnessed your will.
There is, however, nothing stopping you from using the same individuals for both documents.
How many codicils can you add to your will?
There is no legal maximum number of codicils you can add to your will; however, it is generally advised not to add more than five codicils to your will as this can create unnecessary complication.
If there are numerous changes to be made to your will, it is recommended to have a new will drawn up to ensure that the entire document suits your changed circumstances.
Can you write up a codicil yourself?
Although you can write up a codicil yourself, it is always advised to use a solicitor to do so. With their wealth of legal knowledge and experience, a solicitor can:
- cross-reference any changes you wish to make with your existing will to ensure that the change will not either
- contravene the conditions of your will or create unnecessary complication
- advise you on the legal considerations of any change you wish to make
- ensure that the wording and format of the codicil are correct and legally compliant
- discuss whether any change in your circumstances might be better served by drawing up a new will, rather than adding a codicil
Remember, any codicil must be signed and witnessed to be seen as a legal document and a copy should be stored with all copies of your existing will.
Can you amend your existing will without adding a codicil?
Once a will has been signed and witnessed, it is a legally binding document. It cannot be changed other than by the use of a codicil.
The only other alternative is to write up a completely new will.
Who do you need to tell if you add a codicil to your will?
It is advised to send a copy of the codicil to anyone who holds a copy of your existing will and to inform any executors of the change so that they will have full knowledge of your wishes when they administer your will.
What happens to the codicil if you have a new will drawn up?
Should you have a new will drawn up, any codicils connected to your previous will cease to apply. However, you may of course incorporate any change outlined in the codicil into your new will.
Why take legal advice when making a codicil?
When considering making a change to your will, it is always advised to take legal advice so that you can make an informed decision on how to go forward, whether that is to make a codicil to your existing will or have a completely new will drawn up.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.