Given how life changes in many ways over the years, you should make your last will and testament as current as possible. Since these shifts in your circumstances can be substantial or minor, you may wonder if adding a codicil is the best way to modify your will.
Writing a codicil is not your only option. Creating a completely new will might be the best solution. To understand your choices, you should know what a codicil is and when it works to your benefit.
The definition of a codicil
A codicil is like an update or amendment to your will. You can attach it to your existing will or create it as a separate document. Codicils can make various changes to your will, such as altering how to divide and distribute your estate, adding or removing beneficiaries, changing specific bequests or appointing new executors or guardians.
When new wills are preferable
People traditionally used codicils when making changes to a will involved retyping the entire document. With modern computer software, this is no longer necessary, although codicils are still an option.
However, in some cases, it is more practical to draft a completely new will. If your estate undergoes significant changes, writing a complex codicil may not be the best solution. Moreover, if your existing will is too vague, a codicil might not provide the necessary clarity. Finally, if your current will is missing, a codicil is unlikely to hold up in court because there is no original document to refer to.
The advantage of codicils
A codicil can still be a practical tool if you just want to make one or two minor changes to your will without taking the time to draft a new will. However, you should keep your codicil with your original will and destroy any copies that do not include the codicil. According to state law, burning or otherwise destroying a will copy is enough to invalidate it as a legal document.
As an additional step, inform your relatives about any codicil you have created. A goal of modifying your estate plans should be to reduce the risk that your heirs will litigate your will after your death. Reviewing your familial and financial situation should tell you if writing a codicil or a new will is the better option.