You should read your will at least once a year to make sure it is current. It is easier to add a codicil than to write a new will, but multiple codicils can be a problem for your estate.
A codicil is a legal amendment to your will that allows you to make changes or additions. The codicil is a separate sheet of paper added to your will that must be signed by you in the presence of two witnesses and by each witness as well.
You may find it necessary to add a codicil to your will because of:
- a change in tax laws,
- the birth of a child or grandchild, or
- the death of a beneficiary or a named executor.
If you write a codicil to your will, make sure you specify which clause(s) of your last will will be changed or amended by the codicil. If a new provision is being used to replace the one which has been revoked, the codicil should always state that you confirm the will in all other respects. The most frequent reason for making a codicil is when a beneficiary of your will, or the person named as executor or executrix in your will, dies during your lifetime.
The problem with codicils is, they can be confusing. Using a codicil to name a new beneficiary because one you named in the will has died is simple. Naming two new beneficiaries replacing one who has died, or changing the distribution of your estate via a codicil risks confusion and problems for your executor.
Writing a new will instead of adding a codicil to your existing will is the best choice if the changes to your will are more than a single, simple change as described above.
Writing a New Will
There may come a time when it is necessary to write a new will. When writing a new will, you must revoke the previous will. The law considers a will invalid if:
- it has been tampered with or destroyed,
- you were married after the will was drawn up, or
- you write a new will to replace it (provided the executor is aware of the existence of the new will and knows where to locate it upon your death).
You should prepare a new will if your situation changes in one or more of the following categories:
- Financial situation: If there is a change in your finances, for better or for worse, you should review your will. If you acquire new property or sell property, it is a good idea, at the very least, to add a codicil. If it is a major change, you should draw up a new will.
- Tax laws: Laws frequently change, so keep informed of any changes that may affect your will.
- Beneficiaries and executors: You may outlive your executor or beneficiaries, or you may no longer want to include them in your will.
- Marriage: Marriage automatically revokes a will, so draw up a replacement as soon as possible after you marry or re-marry.
- Children: Writing a new will provides protection and security for any new additions to the family.
- Divorce/Separation: You must write a new will if you no longer want your former spouse to be a beneficiary. Keep in mind that a divorce does not automatically revoke a will.
- Moving: If you move to a new province or country, you will want to explore the laws governing your new area. The changes may be minor enough that you may add a codicil instead of drawing up a new will. Consult your local legal community for advice.
The kit includes blank forms and by-the-numbers forms designed to make the process as simple as possible.