Challenging a Will: The Meaning of Codicil

When it comes to writing your Will, there are certain words and terms that come up that you may be unsure of.  In order to ensure your Will is as effective as possible, and to reduce the chance of a Will Dispute after your death, it’s important to fully understand the terminology.

In some cases, you may write your Will and then later decide that you want to make some changes.  To make minor amendments to an existing will, you don’t have to rewrite the whole thing.  You can instead add an additional document known as a codicil.  This article explains what exactly a codicil is, how it works, and the overall affect that it may have on your will.

What Is A Codicil?

A codicil is a short document that is used to make an alteration to an existing will. There are several uses for a codicil, for example a codicil can be used to revoke a will or part of a will, to explain something in the will, or to revive an earlier revoked will.  There is no prescribed format as to how a codicil should be written, however there are formalities that have to be observed in order to make the codicil legally binding.

Making a Legally Binding Codicil

For a codicil to be valid it must comply with the same legal formalities that are in place for making a will.  This means that it should be signed by the will-maker and witnessed by at least two people.  The codicil should then be attached to the original will to form the complete last will and testament.

Dating the Codicil

A Will normally starts with a revocation clause.  This is a statement from the will maker that cancels any previous wills that have been written to ensure that the most recent will is the one that should be carried out.

When adding codicil, it is vital that the right date is used with a reference to the will in question.  This is particularly important in cases where more than one will has been written in order to avoid any confusion when it comes to the administration of the will.

Storing a Codicil

The codicil should be stored alongside the original will in a safe and secure place.  This can be at the office of the solicitor who drafted the will, with other personal papers (preferably in a secure, fire-poof, water-proof document safe) or in a safe deposit box.

Potential Problems with a Codicil

As it is a separate document there is always a risk that the codicil will become separated from the will, which means that it may be overlooked or forgotten after death.  Furthermore, if a long time has passed from the date that the will was signed to when the codicil was added, questions may arise as to the underlying reasons for this, particularly in relation to the will maker’s mental capacity and intentions.  For example, if they were acting freely in making the changes or under undue influence.  Other concerns may arise if the terms of the codicil are significantly different to those of the existing will, particularly if the will had not been written too long ago.

It’s important to note these drawbacks of using a codicil and seek legal advice if you are considering making any changes to your will.

For more information, or if you intend to Defend or Challenge a Will, contact Hentys Lawyers for professional advice today.