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What Is a Codicil to a Will? What Should You Know In Illinois?

In some ways, the only real constant in life is change.

New people come in and out of your sphere of orbit. You move from one city to another. You open new financial accounts and close old ones.

On a personal and fiscal level, your circumstances are always in flux – sometimes in major ways, sometimes in small ways you may not even consider worthy of notice. As such, it’s important to think of your estate plan as a living, breathing thing – one that can be open to changes and ready to adapt to whatever new circumstances your life throws at you.

As we’ve noted before, estate planning is typically not a “one and done” affair, but rather an ongoing process. With this in mind, it’s important to have a grasp on the different ways you may revise or edit your estate planning documents over time.

When it comes to your will and testament, often thought of as the cornerstone of a functional estate plan, one crucial concept to understand is the codicil.

A Codicil to a Will: One Way to Edit Your Last Will and Testament

Put simply, a codicil is an update or supplement to a will. It is designed to add to, remove, or somehow alter certain provisions in a will.

It is important to note that a codicil is a separate legal document from your will. That is to say that you can’t just type a new provision into your will at any time; this is a surefire way to create confusion and ambiguity at some point in the future.

Instead, the alterations or additions contained in your codicil must be submitted in a separate form that supplements your will. To help avoid the potential for ambiguity or confusion down the line, most estate planning experts advise keeping the codicil together with the original will, after it is signed. This way, it will be easy to locate and admit to probate alongside your will, when the time comes.

Bear in mind that in order for a codicil to be valid, it must be executed in the same manner as your will. This means that it must clear certain requirements.  Specifically, it must be signed by the testator (i.e., the person whose will it will be amending), in the presence of at least two valid witnesses.

Do Codicils Have Limits?

Remember that a codicil does not revoke your will entirely, but simply alters one (or more) parts of it. While a codicil may be an effective tool for modifying certain aspects of your will, there may also be times when it is more efficient to write and record a completely new will, and thus revoke the old one.

For instance, if you are making significant or wholesale changes to your will, rather than amending a specific provision, it may be worth considering a completely new will; similarly, if you already have a codicil (or codicils) associated with your will and you wish to make more changes, it may be worth it to issue a revised will and revoke the existing one. This helps minimize the risk of confusion or ambiguity for your loved ones at a later date.

It’s important to consider the many facets that go into a comprehensive estate plan, one that will safeguard your wishes – and your family’s wellbeing – when the time comes. For this reason, many people find that it is beneficial to reach out to a legal professional with experience in matters of wills, trusts, power of attorney, probate, and other matters of estate planning and administration.

Have any more questions or concerns about preparing or revising a will in the Chicagoland area? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line to keep the conversation going!

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