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A party with a will can alter, amend, or make slight changes to a will prior to their death through a codicil. A codicil is the method in which a will is altered or amended. Typically, as a party’s circumstances change and their assets are either bought, sold, or transferred, their financial circumstances change. When these goals change, it is common for the party creating the will to have a need or desire to alter their will.

Alterations to the will can either be for the purpose of replacing the old will with a new one or amending an existing will. When a party wishes to simply amend a will, a codicil is the process they will use to alter the will. A codicil does not replace an old will, rather it amends the current will.

Reasons to Alter a Will

–             Finances change and previous assets are either bought, sold, or transferred

–             Party that writes the will wishes to divide assets differently

–             Will holder desires to transfer property to a new executor

–             Division of assets changes based on circumstances of a family

–             Assets distribution alters due to tax implications

–             Death affects whom will be entitled to party’s assets

Altering an Existing Will

A codicil will alter an existing will by changing or removing entitled party’s. A party that wants to alter a will is required to submit a codicil form and execute it by signing and dating the will and its changes. A notary public is typically required to acknowledge alterations to the will.

When a codicil to a will is written, the will should contain the phrase, “Codicil to the existing will.” This serves as evidence that the will is being amended. For example, the will of Ed Phillips will be amended from “Will of Ed Phillips” to Codicil to the existing will of Ed Phillips.”

The official manner in which this codicil will be stated might be:

I, Ed Phillips, of Mareno Valley, do declare with a sound and healthy mind that this codicil to my last will of Ed Phillips is going to go into effect on May 2, 2018.

Meaning of the Amended Will

This statement clearly states the intention of Mr. Phillips to alter an existing will by codicil.

The will, although different in meaning is not a new will, rather as explained above amends previous instructions of the will to reflect the changes desired by the party creating the will. The codicil should clearly state which parts of the will are being altered and/or amended. For example, if distribution of a particular property changes, the party creating the will should indicate this. This might be written as, “paragraph six regarding the Rochester property” is altered. This should be written for every change.

When the alteration of the will contradicts the previous will, it is vital for the will by codicil to state that the codicil terms supersedes the previous will.

Executing a Codicil

A valid codicil must be executed using the correct steps. Each state has specific requirements in acknowledging the codicil. Typically, the codicil will be executed in the presence of two or more witnesses. It is not a requirement for the codicil to be notarized, however it is recommended to avoid potential issues. Prior to signing the codicil, it is advised that another party, preferably an attorney review the new terms and make changes if necessary.

Issues With a Codicil

When a codicil to a will is executed, it alters previous meanings of the will. There are still however potential issues that may arise when signing a codicil. The major problem with a codicil is the fact that new terms can conflict with the meaning of the old will. In most instances this is likely the intent of the will signer and is therefore not a problem. If portions of the old will and new will conflict, it may be better to create a new will, rather than use portions of the old will that may create future issues. If there additions to an old will, there will be no problem using a codicil.