Wills & Codicils

By Laura Wallace Henderson

Planning for your future includes planning for the time of your death. While contemplating death can be unpleasant for many individuals, creating a will provides your beneficiaries with instructions regarding your final wishes. Seek the services of a licensed attorney who specializes in estate planning to ensure your will and codicils meet the legal requirements of your state.

Planning for your future includes planning for the time of your death. While contemplating death can be unpleasant for many individuals, creating a will provides your beneficiaries with instructions regarding your final wishes. Seek the services of a licensed attorney who specializes in estate planning to ensure your will and codicils meet the legal requirements of your state.

Purpose

A legally binding will is a written document that permits you to maintain control over your assets after your death by allowing you to provide instructions for the courts, your executor and your beneficiaries. Your will can provide written directives regarding your choice of guardians for any minor children or dependents. Your will can also save your family time and money, as well as remove possible confusion and conflict regarding the division of your property. Codicils are additions or supplements to your written will that may modify your previous directives or make explicit provisions regarding any assets not provided for in your current will.

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Considerations

For your will to be a legally binding document, you must follow the provisions of your state judicial system, including executing your will. Laws commonly require individuals to sign completed wills and codicils before two or more witnesses, who must also sign the documents. Select an individual you trust to serve as the executor of your will. Your executor plays an important part in overseeing the distribution of your assets, as well as carrying out other directives and provisions in your will and codicils.

Precautions

When adding a codicil to your will, make sure you provide clear information how your codicil modifies, negates or alters your existing will. Provide clear and concise information to avoid possible confusion or misunderstanding regarding your final wishes. If you decide to write an entire new will, rather than making minor changes with codicils, destroy the original and all copies of previous wills and codicils, after executing your new will.

Necessity

While many wills never require altering or amending, certain circumstances may arise that make it necessary to provide additional details or change specific directives. Common reasons for adding codicils to wills include the death or divorce of a beneficiary, the birth of additional children or the selection of new charities to designate as recipients of your estate contributions. Codicils help to provide brief and limited changes rather than extensive rewrites that often require creating entirely new wills. Like wills, codicils may vary in wording and form, negating the need for a standardized form. Attaching your signed and witnessed codicil to the front of your will can help ensure that your executor receives your most recent instructions at the time of your death.

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How Do I Change a Last Will & Testament?

References

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Legal & Binding Wills

Although you may not like contemplating death, preparing a will allows you to provide instructions regarding your personal wishes and the division of your assets. Your will allows you to designate your belongings to the individuals and charities you choose. When written and executed properly, your will provides a legally binding document for the court and your beneficiaries.

How to Change Your Heirs in Your Will

In your will, you name an executor, the person who will manage your estate according to the distribution instructions that you also provide in your will. If your will meets your state's requirements, the probate court will uphold it and the executor becomes legally bound by its terms. He will have to give your property to the persons you named as the recipients of the property in your will. If you change your mind after you make your will, you must change your will or make a new one. Otherwise, people you don't want to inherit from you will receive property from your estate.

How to Nullify an Executor on a Will

If you want to nullify the executor on your will, you can amend your will by executing a codicil. Codicils are suitable for making minor changes such as removing an executor and naming a new one. However, if there are other portions of your will you want to change, it's advisable to make a new will that unequivocally and expressly revokes your existing will.

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