Is a codicil enough or do I need a whole new will?

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2023 | Firm News |

People who have created an estate plan in New York might think that they have done what they needed to do regarding their property and their loved ones and it never needs to be revisited. For many, the simple act of creating a will or other estate planning document in the first place was an arduous task and they do not want to add to it or rewrite it.

However, regardless of a person’s age and station, they will experience life changes. This is true for younger people who might get married, have children, start a business and accrue properties that they want to leave the future generations. The same is true for older people who are retired and did not plan for new life events, but suddenly have grandchildren and great grandchildren. In some cases, they might divorce and remarry.

Regardless of what happens, people need to understand when they should update or rewrite their will. This is a fundamental aspect of having a comprehensive estate plan that adheres to the person’s wishes.

Know the facts about codicils and rewriting wills

When there is a will in place, it can be changed by writing a codicil or by destroying it and writing a new one. With a codicil, the person can update certain aspects of the will without revoking it entirely. If they got divorced, they can either remove the former spouse, reduce what they are set to receive after the testator has dies or make any changes they choose. The same is true for other life changes. Just like the original document, the codicil will need to be signed by the testator in front of two witnesses who have nothing to gain.

Rewriting the will first requires the previous will to be revoked. This can be done in myriad ways by simply writing another will or writing that there was an intention to revoke or alter the will and performing the same acts necessary to execute it. It can also be revoked by destroying it, burning it, tearing it up or performing other acts to eliminate it. A person can do this at the testator’s direction and it serves as a revocation.

The will can be revoked if the person either creates a nuncupative will, which is doing so orally. It can also be revoked with a holographic will, which is in the testator’s handwriting. There must be two witnesses in either case. Codicils are revoked if any of these steps are taken.

As lives change, estate planning must change too

The objective of an estate plan is to prepare for the future. Writing a will does not end the process. It is merely a beginning with people needing to periodically check the document and make updates as necessary to ensure their desires are carried out.

Legal disputes frequently arise when there are issues about previous wills, codicils, revocations, updates and new wills. To make sure the document is legal and it will hold up to scrutiny, it is important to follow the law.