If you have a will, and you should, there may come a time when it needs to be updated. As your life changes, so should your will, and you should consider updating it at least every few years. Major life changes, such as marriages, births and deaths should prompt this action, but also new business ventures and changes in how you feel about beneficiaries and charities might merit a change. When it comes time to change it, you may encounter an unfamiliar word. Read on for a better understanding of codicils.
Little Codex (little writing)
To understand how the legal concept of a codicil came about, you must reach back in time to a period when writing was a complex and lengthy process, using quills and ink. A document that needed to be changed could mean having to redo the entire thing. Until codicils were created as a way to make an addition to the document, that would effectively change the meaning of the previous document. The word codicil translates, roughly, to little codex or a small item of writing.
Are Codicils Still Necessary?
Things have changed, of course, making some question whether or not the concept of the codicil has become antiquated. With all legal documents being created, saved, and updated using computer software, changing a legal document like a will can be done almost instantly. Moreover, why just add or correct a will when a brand spanking new one can be created in just moment? Making a new will allows for changes to be made far more efficiently than making corrections or adding a codicil.
Wills Must be Witnessed
Whether you are talking about a new will, a codicil or making a change in a will, it must be witnessed. These witnesses, who are often legal staff members at law firms, are there to testify that the person named as the testator is "of sound mind" and is not being coerced to make changes by anyone else.
Whether you decide to totally redo your will, make changes, or settle for a codicil, make sure that you touch base with your estate attorney every year or so and evaluate the need to update your will. Leaving your loved ones with an outdated will could mean problems for them when it comes time to probate it, particularly if you have left behind property that must be dealt with using the probate courts. If you want to be the one to decide what happens to your estate after your death instead of your county probate court, keep on top of your will and make changes as needed with your estate attorney.