Executing a last will and testament is an important element of proper estate planning. The last will and testament ensures that the division of an individual’s estate and assets are completed according to their own express wishes upon their death. A last will details all of the specific information required for an executor to distribute the decedent's assets to each beneficiary named in the will. Wills can purposefully include or exclude individuals, groups, or organizations that the individual wishes to distribute assets to, and it details the exact amount each person or group is to receive.
Wills can also bequeath specific items to specific individuals or organizations or even leave an entire estate to charity if the individual so chooses. Many times, for different reasons, people find that they want to change certain aspects of their will as time goes on. When this occurs, one of the easiest ways to amend a will without having to rewrite it completely is to utilize a codicil of will.
A codicil of will is a legal document that acts as an amendment to an existing will and allows people to change certain elements of the will without having to rewrite the entire document. A codicil of will is most useful when only minor changes to the will need to be made.
If one of the beneficiaries gets married or divorced and changes their legal name, it is important to reflect this change in the will so there is no uncertainty later on. The codicil of will would be implemented to amend the existing will to address the name change.
Another scenario in which the codicil of will is useful is when an individual wishes to add or change a charitable gift or other asset disbursement that was not originally included in the initial last will. If the executor of the will needs to be changed, this is also commonly accomplished through the use of a codicil of will.
While a codicil of will is a relatively simple way to make alterations to a last will and testament, it is important to note that it must be witnessed and attested to in the same manner as the original will depending upon the state laws in which it is created. The codicil of will affects only the specific section of the will for which it is created and leaves all other provisions of the will unchanged.
The codicil of will is best used when only minor changes to the will need to be made. If major changes are required, such as removing or adding beneficiaries or completely changing asset distributions, it might be in an individual’s best interest to re-create the will from scratch.
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