The law uses terms that don’t always make sense to people who haven’t been through law school, and “codicil“ is one of them. A will codicil is simply a document that amends the terms of an existing will. Codicils can do a lot of things to an existing will, including explain ambiguous terms, add new terms, or subtract existing terms, without revoking the terms of the existing will.
Do You Need a Codicil?
If you want to change the terms in your will, a codicil is one way to do it. You can also create an entirely new will (which will have the legal effect of revoking your previous will), but if the majority of your existing will reflects your wishes, it may be easier to simply use a codicil. Some of the reasons that people may want to change the terms of their existing will include the following:
- Marriage or divorce
- The birth of a child
- A falling out with a family member
- You have changed your mind about who you want to be the executor of your will
- Your assets have significantly increased or decreased
You Should Review Your Will Regularly
When people make a will, they typically consider the terms for a few days or weeks and then tuck it away in a filing cabinet or safety deposit box for years without giving it a second thought. For this reason, it is easy to forget the terms of your will and not realize that they no longer reflect what you want to happen to your estate when you are gone. Life can change significantly over the years, so it is important to review your will every three to five years, at a minimum.
How Do You Make a Codicil to a Will in Missouri?
If you are considering making a codicil, it is important to understand that it’s not as simple as getting out a piece of paper and writing “Codicil” on the top and making a list of changes. In Missouri, in order for a codicil to be valid, it needs to comply with the same formalities with which a will must comply. If it doesn’t, it will fail—meaning that the terms of your will shall remain the same. Some of the formalities that are required by Missouri law include the following:
- The person making the will or codicil (the testator) must sign it. If the testator is unable to sign it, someone else can sign it in the testator’s name in his or her presence and at his or her direction.
- Two witnesses must sign the will in the testator’s presence.
Other requirements must be met in order for a codicil to be valid. Because of the complicated legal issues that can arise when executing a will or codicil, it’s highly advisable to retain an attorney to do so.
Call the Law Offices of Kenneth P. Carp Today to Speak with a St. Louis & St. Charles Estate Planning Attorney
If you are considering modifying your existing will or creating one at all, you need the assistance of an experienced attorney. Kenneth P. Carp is a retired Lt. Colonel from the USAF Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps and has more than 25 years of experience in private practice. To schedule a free case evaluation with Mr. Carp, call our office today at (636) 947-3600 or send us an email through our online contact form.