Codicils: what is a codicil, making minor changes to a will

Updated 11 October 2019.

What is a codicil to a will?

A codicil is an additional document used to make minor changes, amendments or alterations to an existing will. The codicil document must be signed in front of witnesses in the same way as for a will, see below. Once completed the codicil is kept with that will.  More than one codicil may be made.

The word ‘codicil’ comes from Latin, meaning a letter or note. Together with the will document, being testamentary documents they only operate when you die.  A codicil is not used for making changes to other documents such as a trust deed for example.  To do that, you need to follow the procedures set out in the trust deed, and seek legal advice.

Examples of a minor change are when you want to change your executor/s or trustee/s, appoint a new one, add a specific gift (legacy) to a particular person or delete it.  Lawyers tend to prefer that a new will is made so as to avoid potential difficulties down the track with interpretation, and the extra costs that arise in resolving them.

Codicil to an existing will or make a new will?

As described above a codicil is a short document which may be used to make a minor change to an existing will.  If the will was made a long time ago, it may be best to make a new will altogether so there is no inconsistencies.  Seek professional advice.

This article looks at:

  • What is a codicil?
  • Making a legally valid codicil
  • Codicils must refer to the date on the correct will
  • Revoking part of a will by a codicil
  • Reviving an earlier will by a codicil
  • Meaning of ‘will’ includes a codicil
  • How must codicils be signed?
  • Storing a codicil
  • Potential problems
  • An undated, unsigned ‘homemade’ codicil 

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