Codicil confusion: explaining the meaning

Helping to answer the question ‘what is a codicil?’

A codicil is a legal document that either adds something to your will or changes it in some way, so you don’t need to write a new one.

What is a codicil to a will?

So, you’ve written your will and ticked that off your to do list. But perhaps life leads you down a fresh path and things change, so you need to update it.

A codicil can help you make minor changes to your will. You can use one to add, tweak, explain or revoke (officially cancel) part or all of it. This means you don’t need to tear up your existing will and write a new one. Adding a codicil is the only way you can make an official change to your will once it has been signed and witnessed.

If you do create a codicil, make sure it’s kept together with your will somewhere safe. Either tucked away at home, with your solicitors or will writing service, or submitted to the Probate service. That way, there’s less risk of it getting lost or being missed by the executors of your will when the time comes. 

Adding a codicil vs. writing a new will

Ideally, you should only use a codicil to make small changes or additions to your will. For anything else, it might be better to create a brand new one. 

You should think about writing a new will if you:

  • Want to make a major change.
  • Have lots of changes to make.
  • Already have a codicil in place.

When you die, you want to leave behind an easy-to-understand document that makes your wishes clear. Trying to make major or multiple changes to your will using a codicil could muddy this and lead to contradictions and confusion. And the same could happen if you try to add more than one codicil.

Reasons for adding a codicil

Reasons you might decide to add a codicil to your will include:

  • Adding a new executor.
  • Getting married. If you live in England or Wales this will officially cancel your will, although not if you live in Scotland.
  • Updating beneficiaries (the people you want to benefit from your will). Such as adding a new grandchild or removing an ex-partner.
  • Making small tweaks to what gifts or how much a beneficiary will receive.
  • Changing your funeral arrangements.

How to add a codicil

If you want to add a codicil to your will, you can use a solicitor or an online will-writing service. Whatever you choose, you’ll need to let the executors of your will know about the codicil. And it will need to be signed and witnessed by two people. Though they don’t have to be the same people who signed and witnessed your actual will.

How to write a new will

If you want to make significant changes to your will, you should consider writing a brand new one. You can use a solicitor or an online will-writing service to do this. Make sure you destroy your old will and any copies. Your new will should also clearly cancel any previous versions and codicils.

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