How to Write a Codicil to a Will

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How to Write a Codicil to a Will

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Sometimes, after someone writes a last will and testament, they decide they wish to change a small portion of the will. Perhaps their family has expanded to include additional members. Perhaps their assets have expanded to include a special heirloom that they wish to leave to a special descendant. When this happens and you only have a few or minor revisions to make, a simple codicil will usually do—rather than rewriting the entire will. A codicil is a separate document that amends the original will. When writing a codicil to a will, follow these steps.


1. Identify the section and content you want to change.

The first step in amending your will is to review it. Identify the exact section you wish to modify. Some wills divide by "Article," such as Article 1 and Article 2, or have line numbers. Others divide by Section or another heading. Regardless of how the will is divided, locate the title of the section you want to change and write this down in your codicil for the ease of the reader.

Once you determine what part of your will you are revising, write down what information you wish to change. For example, if your original will leaves the stamp collection to your nephew and you decide you'd rather leave it to your niece, mention where you recorded this in your original will and indicate your new preference is that the stamp collection be left to the niece. Do this for each portion of the will you want to change.

2. Type up the changes.

Take the time to type up the codicil. Refer to your will to determine the language used as the header of the will and use this for the codicil. Include a sentence that identifies the original will by date. Add your new provision or provisions. Then, include a sentence indicating that the other provisions of the will remain as they are.

You further want to indicate the balance of the will is not being revoked entirely by the codicil, and rather, that the codicil only changes the identified portion(s) of the will in the way you indicated.

3. Sign and date the codicil.

A codicil that is not signed and dated is not worth the paper it is printed on. You must sign it to indicate the contents of the codicil reflect your desires. You must also date it to provide the probate court with information about when it was created in relation to your original will.

Different states have different rules about whether you must have witnesses sign a will. Similarly, some states require the signature of a witness or witness for a valid codicil. Take the time to review the laws of your state to determine if your codicil needs to be witnessed.

4. Store your codicil in a safe place.

Put your codicil in a safe place along with your existing will. If you filed your will with the court, you should also take steps to file your codicil with the court. Having all of your estate planning documents in one place helps your heirs avoid problems later by making your entire intent clear.

If you are writing a codicil to your will, an attorney or an online service provider can assist you with the process. If you would like to make significant or numerous changes to your will, you may want to consider rewriting your will and seeking the assistance of an estate planning attorney. Don't wait to amend your will. There is no time like the present for taking this step.

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