What is a Codicil?
It is a document that amends, but does not replace, an existing will.
When is a Codicil appropriate?
They are usually used to make minor alterations to a will, for instance, by adding or removing specific gifts of money or items such as jewellery.
When is a Codicil not appropriate?
To make major changes in a will such as changing who the main beneficiary is in your will. This might occur if for example you remarried or entered into a new long term relationship. A codicil would also not be a good idea if you were thinking of making multiple changes to your will.
What are the perceived benefits of a Codicil?
They are usually a cheaper option to making a new will. As a codicil focuses on a specific part of a will they usually can be drafted more quickly, making it a cheaper option to a new will, provided the changes are of a minor nature.
What are the disadvantages?
There is the danger that a codicil could be missed unless it is stored with the will itself in a secure place.
Executors may find their job to be a lot simpler having all the deceased’s wishes set out in one rather than two documents especially if there is any ambiguity or inconsistency between the will and the codicil.
Another disadvantage is that if it is necessary to apply for a Grant of Probate, both the will and codicil will need to be lodged with the Probate Registry. Not everyone realises that once probate is granted these documents then become a matter of public record and anyone who is interested including a beneficiary or nosey family member can apply for a copy of the will and the codicil. If say for instance you reduce a gift to one particular beneficiary, that beneficiary could become aware that the codicil has actually reduced their gift and they could be far less grateful than they would have been had they not found out. This can deter quite a few people looking at altering their wills from doing it through the use of a codicil.
Do the same rules apply to Codicils as they do to Wills?
Yes. To be legally valid, a codicil has to be signed and executed in the same way as a will. I have come across cases where people have decided to write their own codicil. However, because they have not been executed in the appropriate manner, they have not been regarded as legally valid and the wishes of the deceased have not been fulfilled. It is therefore most important to ensure that the proper rules are followed if you want your wishes to be carried out on your death. This is usually best done by employing a specialist wills solicitor.