Once you have made a Will, it is probable that the next time it needs to be updated only a minor amendment is required. One simple option is to make a formal codicil to the Will. This operates to delete and/or insert provisions in the original Will.
“Codicil” is a bit of a funny sounding old fashioned legal word. It is generally defined as “an addition or supplement that explains, modifies or revokes a will or part of one”. The idea of codicils probably hark back to the days before computers when redrafting a previously prepared will meant completely rewriting (in fountain pen!) or retyping the whole will. To save having to do the whole thing again a codicil could be made to alter only the relevant part of a Will.
With modern technology it is now possible to easily create a new will based on your old will and alter the relevant parts.
It is preferable to update the Will rather than make a codicil for reasons including.
- The formal requirements are still necessary including signing the codicil in the presence of two witnesses.
- Most importantly, your beneficiaries do not get the opportunity to see the amendment. All that is left is your final Will. No one will know if there has been a previous document which increased or decreased the provisions for any of the beneficiaries. This can prevent a beneficiary’s feelings from being hurt.
- Drafting a codicil can be messy. Although the change might appear to be simple, it does require the reader to look at two separate documents to understand your wishes. While it is possible to have more than one codicil, it just makes the task for the reader more challenging. Keeping everything together in the one document is more logical.
- There are no savings in the costs of preparing a codicil as compared to updating an existing Will. We always keep electronic copies of Wills and it is straightforward to make amendments. It can be more time-consuming to prepare a codicil then update an existing Will.
Everyone should look at their existing Will every 2 to 3 years and do their own analysis as to whether any changes are required. It is surprising how easy it is to forget the provisions contained in your Will even though the document is only two years old.