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Codicils: What are they and when might you need one?

Codicils: What are they and when might you need one?

A Codicil is a document which amends your Will.  Rather than preparing a completely new Will, you can have a Codicil prepared which will be read alongside your Will upon your death. 

For a Codicil to be legally valid, you need to comply with the same formalities as if it were a Will.  For example, you will need to sign it and you will need two witnesses to witness your signature. 

Some examples of the amendments you may wish to make are changes of address (which are not strictly necessary, but will help your Executors to find beneficiaries when they are dealing with your estate), removing or adding a gift and amending who is to receive a share of your residuary estate.

The reasons for having a Codicil might include removing a gift because you are no longer close to the person or, alternatively, adding a gift for someone you have become close to. Someone may have predeceased you (again an amendment is not strictly necessary as your Will should provide for what should happen upon a beneficiary’s death, or if your Will is silent, the gift will simply lapse), or there may be a change in the law which makes a clause unnecessary.

One thing to bear in mind with a Codicil is that when you pass away, it (and your Will) become public documents so anyone who applies to see your Will and Codicil can.  This might not be something you would like friends or family to see, if, for example, you have removed a gift to someone.  You will obviously have your reasons for this, but it may then become an issue of contention for the person whose gift you removed or reduced.

A solution to this is to have a new Will.  It will be read as if no other Will came before it, so you are safe in the knowledge that your change of heart will not be revealed.

Another reason for having a completely new Will might be if the amendment you want to make is not simple and to have to read the Will alongside the Codicil may leave room for error or ambiguity.  Further, if you already have one or two Codicils (and you can have as many as you want), you may wish to amalgamate everything into the one Will, to make it easier for your Executors to read, again, leaving less room for error or oversight.  Also, if you just have a Will, there is no danger of one of your Codicils becoming separated from your Will.

If you are thinking of amending your Will and are not sure whether or not you should have a Codicil or a new Will prepared, please contact Charles Fraser.

Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances. 

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