Estate planning isn’t a one-and-done process. As life changes, so might your wishes for how your estate should be managed and distributed.
You might think you need to rewrite your entire will to accommodate any changes, but there’s an easier way: the codicil. Here, we’ll explore what a codicil is, how to use it, and instances when a living trust may be a better fit.
The Basics of a Codicil
A codicil is a supplemental document that allows you to make amendments to your existing will. If you’ve experienced a minor life change that affects your will, a codicil can be an efficient way to handle it.
For example, if you want to add a new grandchild as a beneficiary or remove a bequest, a codicil allows you to do so without rewriting your will.
Steps for Creating a Codicil
Making a codicil isn’t overly complicated, but you have to follow some rules. First, you’ll need to draft the codicil, making clear which parts of your will you’re amending.
Next, you’ll sign it, and so will two witnesses. Keep the codicil with your original will so that they can be read and executed together.
Potential Pitfalls of Using a Codicil
While convenient, codicils are not risk-free. If you accumulate several codicils, it could create confusion when executing your will. A confused or unclear will can risk invalidation in a probate court.
The worst-case scenario? Your estate gets distributed according to state law, not your wishes. Another risk is that the codicil might become separated from your original will, rendering it ineffective.
Ensuring the Legality of Your Codicil
Don’t think you can just jot down changes on your will and call it a day. Codicils have to meet specific legal criteria, including the same formalities required for an original will like witness signatures. If you’re uncertain about the process, consult an estate planning attorney to help you draft a legally sound codicil.
When Is a New Will Necessary?
Not every change can or should be handled by a codicil. If you’re making significant changes – such as adding a new spouse as a beneficiary or changing the distribution of your assets – it’s wise to create a new will. If you go this route, make sure to revoke your old will to avoid any conflicts or confusion.
The Advantages of a Living Trust Over a Will or Codicil
There are cases where neither a codicil nor a new will is the best solution. In these situations, a living trust might be more suitable for your estate planning needs. Here are some benefits of a living trust:
Skip the Probate Process
One of the major perks of a living trust is that it allows you to avoid the often lengthy and costly probate process. Your assets can go directly to your beneficiaries, saving time and money.
Protection from Reckless Spending
Living trusts can include spendthrift provisions, which protect the assets from beneficiaries who may not be financially responsible. If you’re worried about how a beneficiary will manage their inheritance, a living trust offers more control.
Living trusts offer more flexibility than a will. You can make changes or even revoke the trust entirely. In addition, you can determine how you want the beneficiaries to receive their inheritances.
For instance, if you want them to receive incremental payouts over time to prevent reckless spending or misguided investments, you could leave these instructions in the trust declaration.
We Are Here to Help!
Our doors are open if you would like to engage a Phoenix, Arizona estate planning lawyer to help you put a tailor-made plan in place. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 888-222-1328.
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