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Virginia

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Codicil

What is a Codicil?

A Codicil is a document that acts as an addendum to a Last Will and Testament, meaning it can make changes to an existing Will (with additions, substitutions, and/or deletions).

Who can change a Will?

Only the creator of a Last Will (the testator or principal) can make changes to their Last Will and Testament. This means that even if someone has Power of Attorney, they cannot create a Codicil to make changes to the principal's Will.

What changes can I make to my Will?

Some common things people change in their Last Wills using Codicils include:

  • Beneficiaries of their estate, assets, and/or gifts
  • Guardians for their children
  • Executor of their Will

You can make virtually any changes that you want to your Will within reason, including adding assets or gifts that you may have forgotten in the original or new ones you acquired after creating the original. For example, if you win the lottery or come into an inheritance from a deceased relative.

It's usually best practice to create an entirely new Will if you find yourself wanting to make extensive changes. For example, if you get married, divorced, or have kids, it's probably a good idea to create a new Last Will to reflect the major life change.

How do I write a Codicil to a Will?

To write a Codicil you need to clearly state your name, residence, and the date you signed your original Last Will. Then you list your amendments and the clauses they modify.

If you're adding clauses, specify where in the Will you'd want them to appear, e.g. "My Last Will is to be modified by adding the following clause after clause 12", and then write out the clause with clear, plain language.

Do codicils have to be notarized?

The requirements can differ from state to state, but typically Codicils do not have to be notarized. They do, however, have to be signed by witnesses who are not listed as beneficiaries in the Last Will. The number of witnesses can differ between states as well, but usually the number is no less than two.

Some states allow a self-proving Affidavit to be attached to your Codicil, which is signed by you and up to three witnesses under oath before a notary public. The self-proving Affidavit allows you to waive the requirement for one or all of your witnesses to show up in court to acknowledge the proper execution of your Codicil.

You can sign the self-proving Affidavit at the same time as your Codicil or at a later date if you wish, and it should be noted that whether or not you use the Affidavit does not affect the validity of your Codicil.

Related Documents:

  • Gift Deed: a document that you can use to give away sentimental items or money to other people without compensation
  • Last Will and Testament: a document used to specify how you want your assets and property distributed after you pass away
  • Living Will: a form that allows you to specify your health care preferences when and if you become incapacitated and cannot make those decisions for yourself or allows you to appoint someone to make those decisions for you
  • Power of Attorney: an estate planning document you use to appoint someone to make financial, real estate, and/or business decisions in your stead should you become incapacitated or are unable to make those decisions for yourself at a specific time
  • Revocable Living Trust: an estate planning tool that you can use to place assets in a trust so they can skip probate and be distributed according to your specific wishes after you pass away
  • Revocation of Power of Attorney: a document used to revoke an existing Power of Attorney

Frequently Asked Questions:

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