Amending or Revising a Will in New Jersey – The Codicil

Rewriting your entire Last Will and Testament can take a lot of time, money, and energy. Codicils are an alternative. Consider a codicil as an amendment to your Will if you do not want to re-write the entire document. There are a few things to consider, however.

What is a Codicil?

A codicil is a separate document that you can use to amend your Will in order to make small adjustments. The purpose of this is to save time. Instead of having to rewrite your entire will every time you want to make a minor change, you can write a codicil documenting that change instead.

What Can I Include in a Codicil?

Codicils should typically only include minor changes to your Will. For example, you might write a codicil if you are changing your executor, removing or adding new beneficiaries, or removing or adding certain bequests. You might also use it to update guardian selection if you have minor children. These minor changes are fairly easy to account for, and therefore do not require the entire will to be rewritten to effectuate the changes.

When Should I Write a Codicil?

Again, codicils are generally for smaller revisions. The ones mentioned above are perfectly fine, along with other small adjustments. However, if you are making large-scale changes to your will, you may want to rewrite it instead of adding a codicil. Another situation that might lend itself better to rewriting your will is if you already have multiple codicils. While there is no legal limit, if you have too many, it can become unclear which is the valid or updated version. This may lead to your wishes being unclear, and in some circumstances, your will could be rendered invalid altogether. The best time to write a codicil is if you want to make a minor change to your will and have no prior codicils.

How Do I Write a Codicil?

If you have decided you want to execute a codicil, take a few things into account as you get started. The document should clearly state that it is a codicil and it should reference the prior executed will you are modifying. Keep in mind that you should be very specific when stating your changes. For example, remember to use full legal names when referring to people, or very specific locations when referring to property. You along with two witnesses must sign the codicil. Remember that the codicil must be a separate document and you cannot simply make cross-outs or alterations to a will.  It is always a good idea to have an estate planning lawyer prepare or review a codicil to ensure it conforms with all of the legal requirements of the State of New Jersey.

If you need assistance preparing a codicil or have any other estate planning concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Ward, Shindle & Hall of West Deptford, NJ.