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.


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.


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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan


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.


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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Components of a Legal Will


Related articles

The Advantages of a Living Trust Over a Last Will & Testament

Planning for your future involves taking measures to direct the management of your belongings upon your death or incapacitation. Known as estate planning, certain actions and documents help you control the division of your assets. While a last will and testament works well for some individuals in certain situations, revocable living trusts may provide additional benefits in helping you to manage your estate.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Add an Executor to My Will?

Even after you make a will and sign it, you can change it. Over time, you may want to change beneficiaries or executors to reflect changes in your family or friends. You don't need a lawyer to change your will, but you must make sure your changes meet your state's legal requirements.

How to Amend a Last Will & Testament

Finishing your last will and testament can feel like a huge weight off your shoulders. However, as your life circumstances change, you may find yourself needing to change your will. This is especially true if you add family members such as children, change family members as in remarriage, or buy or sell significant assets such as the family home. There are two ways to change your last will and testament: by adding a codicil (or amendment), or by rewriting your will.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How Do I Change a Last Will & Testament?

You might decide to change your will for several reasons, including changes in the laws governing your will and changes ...

What Is a Last Will & Testament For?

Although you may prefer to contemplate more pleasant circumstances, planning for your death allows you to retain some ...

Making Corrections on a Will Without a Lawyer

After you have made your will, you may find that it contains errors or that you want to amend, change or remove some ...

How to Make a Will for Stepchildren

An estimated 65 percent of all remarriages bring children from a prior marriage into a stepfamily, according to the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED