What is a Codicil?
Writing your last will and testament is something few people like to think about. It seems like writing a will is an admission that one day you won’t be here any longer. But unfortunately, as the old adage says, death and taxes are the two unavoidable parts of life. But once you’ve created your will, that might not be the last time you have to consider your final wishes.
Changing a Will
It should be apparent that there are some times when you might need to change your will. Think about the obvious ones first: the birth of new children or grandchildren might change how you wish to distribute your property. Maybe the divorce of a loved one—or even you—might require you to dramatically modify the distribution as well. Even setting aside these obvious, major life changes, simpler issues might arise. Perhaps you’ve changed your mind about a charitable donation you earlier willed. Or what if you decide that an earlier division of your property didn’t take into account the size of your child’s growing family? Or perhaps a niece or nephew wants to start college in a few years and you want to be able to set aside a portion for that specific purpose?
In situations like these, you need to change your Last Will and Testament to reflect your most recent wishes. After all, the purpose of the Last Will and Testament is to be the final, set-in-stone record of your wishes. So how do you make a change to a document that was designed to be permanent?
Writing a Codicil
The legal name for a document that changes, or amends, an existing Last Will and Testament is a codicil. Simply put, a Codicil is an amendment of a Last Will and Testament. A codicil does not revoke or terminate your entire Last Will and Testament, but rather changes some part of it while leaving the rest intact. It is important to note, however, that a codicil requires the same formalities as a Last Will and Testament. Why? Consider what a Last Will and Testament is. It’s a document that speaks for you when you are no longer available to explain your wishes. Because of this, the law must be very specific to make sure that no one abuses the system to change your will after you are no longer there to contest it.
The act of writing the codicil itself is not difficult. Schedule a meeting with us and we can write up what you want changed and make sure that the language clearly identifies the section to change and your new wishes. The problem, however, is ensuring that the codicil is time- and cost-efficient.
Because a codicil is not a new document, but an amendment to an existing one, your attorney will need to carefully review your existing Last Will and Testament. Especially if our attorneys did not write the original document, a careful review of the work is necessary to make sure that the codicil would, in the worst case scenario, be interpreted by a judge in the way that you’d want it to be interpreted.
Often, this additional work can equal the time it would take to write an entirely new will. In most cases, a codicil might be more work—and be more costly—than writing an entirely new will from scratch. This has the added benefit of allowing you to revisit all your choices and ensure that they are still your true wishes for your property.
Just like other legal issues, internet articles can only get you so far. Post Falls Law is dedicated to helping citizens of Post Falls and Kootenai County prepare for estate planning issues, and we are happy to talk to you about codicils, Last Will and Testament writing, and other estate planning needs. Contact us today for your free, personalized consultation. We’ll listen to your particular needs and be able to give you specific advice about whether a codicil or new will would fit your particular situation best.
Questions about estate planning? Schedule a consultation so I can help you learn more.