Codicil: How to Update Your Will
Wills can be changed at any time, as long as you are still of sound mind and follow the correct procedures. This is actually quite common- life changes can change what you want and need to do in your estate planning. But that does not necessarily mean that you need to re-do everything each time something changes in your life.
What is a Codicil to a Will?
A "codicil" is a legal document you can prepare after you have a legal will in place if you need to change something about your original will. It is a useful estate planning tool than can allow you to make important changes without starting the whole estate planning process all over again. Your estate planning attorney should be able to advise you about whether you can accomplish what you want by creating a codicil.
Legal Requirements for a Valid Codicil
For a codicil to be valid under Massachusetts state law, it must meet the same requirements as the original will, which are:
Using a Codicil to Change Beneficiaries
You can create a codicil if you are basically satisfied with your estate plan, but want to include additional heirs not covered by that plan. This could happen if you remarry and want to leave something for a stepchild who is not your natural heir. It could also happen if you decide there is a charity or other organization you would live to make a gift to that is not accounted for in your original estate plan.
Using a Codicil to Correct Signing Defects
A valid codicil can in some instances cure any signing defects in your original will. For example, if one of your witnesses was a beneficiary of your original will, you can use a codicil to ratify the original terms with new disinterested witnesses.
This also sometimes comes up when you have estate planning documents executed in another state. In Massachusetts, for example, there is specific language required to disinherit one of your children. If you have a will from another state that does not require this, you can easily correct it through a codicil.
Using a Codicil to Change Your Personal Representative
In your original will, you likely named a personal representative. This used to be called an executor or executrix. It is the person who is responsible for bringing your will to Probate Court and making sure your estate is probated and distributed according to your wishes.
Usually, but not always, your personal representative is a family member. As time goes by, that person may have moved away, died, or become unable to help you for one reason or another. You can easily update your estate plan to name a new person without re-doing the entire plan by executing a codicil.
This is also something that comes up if you get divorced or remarried and need to update your personal representative.
Need Help With a Codicil or Other Update?
Using a Codicil to Change Guardians for Minor Children
Sometimes young parents name their own parents as guardians for their minor children. If you have done this, and your named parent has an illness or disability that makes then unable to fill that role, you can use a codicil to name another person.
When to Use a Codicil and When to Rewrite Your Estate Plan
A codicil is a useful estate planning tool for simple, one-off changes to your estate plan. If you have major life changes, however, it is a good idea to get legal advice about how those changes might affect other aspects of your estate planning. We can help you review your existing documents and help you make an informed decision about the best way to proceed.
How We Can Help
We are ready to help. We have a simple process for getting you from wherever you are now to executed and final documents and peace of mind. It starts with an initial consultation, which is absolutely free. You can use the button below to schedule your consultation, or simply give us a call at 781-784-2322, or fill out our web form.