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What is a Codicil to Your Last Will and Testament?

A Codicil is a legal document that changes specific provisions of your Last Will and Testament but leaves all of the other provisions unchanged. As long as you are mentally competent, you can change, modify, update, or completely revoke your Last Will and Testament at any time. The question becomes, should you make a Codicil or should you rewrite your entire Will?

Making Minor Changes

While there are not any written rules as to when a Codicil should be prepared, the general rule is that if the changes you want to make are minor – adding or deleting specific bequests, changing who will serve as Personal Representative, updating a beneficiary’s or Personal Representative’s legal name due to marriage or divorce, then a Codicil will cover these types of changes.

Making Major Changes

On the other hand, if the changes that you want to make are significant – adding a new spouse as a beneficiary, disinheriting a prior beneficiary, changing from distributions to family members to distributions to a charity or vice versa – then you should consider preparation of a new Last Will and Testament.

What About Multiple Codicils?

What if you have made a series of three or four Codicils over the past 10-15 years and you want to make another minor change? Then consider consolidating all of your changes into a new Last Will and Testament- this will be helpful to your Personal Representative who will have a single document to follow instead of piecing together four or five separate documents.

The Legalities of Codicils

If you are considering making a change to your Last Will and Testament, do not simply mark up your Will and stick it back in the drawer. Why? Because a Codicil must be signed with the same formalities as your original Will to be valid.

Instead, ask your elder law attorney to assist you in preparing a Codicil to your Will to ensure it conforms to Pennsylvania law.