What is a Codicil to a Will?

Nicola Middlemiss

Nicola Middlemiss

18/05/2022

A codicil to a will is a legal change or amendment. Here’s everything you need to know.

Sometimes, a person might need to make a minor change to their will. It’s inconvenient to rewrite the entire document so that’s where a codicil comes in.

If you or someone you know is planning a codicil, it’s important to get it right or updates may not be considered valid. This guide will help you understand key areas of a codicil including:

What is a codicil?
What changes can I make to my will with a codicil?
How to write a codicil to a will in Australia
Common problems with codicils
Is it better to create a codicil or make a new will?

What changes can I make to my will with a codicil?

There are several minor changes you can make to your existing will with a codicil. Common changes include:

  • Replacing or adding an executor. Your initial executor may no longer be available or appropriate. A codicil can change the executor or appoint a co-executor.
  • Updating beneficiaries. You can add new beneficiaries, remove existing ones, or update contingent beneficiaries.
  • Updating gifts to a beneficiary. You can add, remove, or change the assets or gifts being given to specific beneficiaries.
  • Updating guardianship wishes of children under 18. If the named guardians are no longer available or appropriate, you can name new ones.
  • Adding instructions for pets. If someone gets a pet, they may want to include instructions about what should happen to them after they die.

How to write a codicil to a will in Australia

There’s no formal codicil template in Australia but there are certain bits of information you must include to ensure it’s binding. It’s best to follow these steps as a codicil template:

  • Clearly state that the document is intended to be codicil to your will. Include the date of the will you’re amending.
  • Write a statement with important identifying information. This should include your full name and address, a declaration that you’re of sound mind and not under duress, and the date to avoid confusion where there is more than one codicil.
  • Using clause numbers, identify the parts of your will you want to amend or remove with the codicil. Be specific with details. For example, if you’re changing a beneficiary, executor, or guardian, specify who you’re replacing and who their replacement is using their full legal names.
  • When modifying gifts to be distributed to beneficiaries, be specific with the amount or percentage they will receive. Also be careful to thoroughly describe your property and assets.
  • Acknowledge that your codicil should overrule the relevant parts stated in your original will. Then also state that everything else in your will not affected by the codicil remains intact and valid.
  • Sign and witness your codicil in the same way as you would a will. For your codicil to be legally valid in Australia, you and at least two other witnesses must sign the document. The witnesses must also be present while you sign the codicil. It is important that these witnesses be unbiased – that means they can’t be mentioned in your will. They don’t have to be the same people who witnessed the signing of your will though.
  • Lastly, attach the codicil to your will and store them in a safe place. Remember to tell the executor(s) of your will where it is.

Common problems with codicils

With codicils, there are some common problems that can cause them to become invalid. Be mindful of:

  • Vague choice of words. Avoid vague or confusing language. Be as clear as possible by using specific details and simple words and sentences.
  • Incorrect dates. Double check that you’ve used the correct dates of the will being amended and the codicil. Any codicil without a date will be deemed invalid.
  • Lost documents. As the codicil is a separate document from the will, there is a risk it could be separated from the will and lost. It’s important to store all documents together in a safe place.
  • Lengthy gap between the will and the codicil. If a very long time has passed between when the will was first written and when it was amended by the codicil, its validity may come into question. A court may question whether the will maker was of sound mind or was acting freely.
  • Significant changes. A court may also be concerned if the updates to the codicil are significantly different to the existing will, especially if it is amending a recently dated will.

Is it better to create a codicil or make a new will?

It depends on the situation. A codicil can be an easy way to make minor changes to your will or to explain something in more detail. However, it may be more appropriate to write a new will if you plan on making significant changes.

If you want to make significant changes to your estate or significant changes to the beneficiaries, a new will is the safer bet.

You make amendments or write new wills via Gathered Here as many times as you like – for no cost at all. Just remember to download, print, sign and have the document witnessed by two impartial people.

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