A will, or last will and testament, is one of the most common and popular ways to provide for loved ones after death and establish a long-lasting legacy. However, people often find themselves in situations where an existing will is no longer sufficient to meet their family’s needs. While Arkansas law allows the writer of a will to amend the document with a codicil, significant changes should be implemented with extraordinary caution.
A codicil is a legal document used to make specific changes to an existing will. People sometimes use codicils because drafting an amendment seems simpler than rewriting an entire estate plan. A codicil could be written to:
- Change an executor. An estate executor is responsible for initiating probate, managing estate assets, paying creditors, and disbursing inheritances. While anyone could be an executor, most Arkansans delegate the position to a friend, family member, or attorney. If an executor is no longer capable of carrying out their responsibilities, a codicil could be used to appoint a new estate representative.
- Add or remove beneficiaries. A codicil can be used to add new beneficiaries to a will or to remove existing heirs. Similarly, a codicil can also explain why the testator has decided to make certain estate planning decisions such as disinheriting a beneficiary.
- Accommodate familial circumstances. Wills are regularly used to designate guardians for minor children. If a guardian passes away, moves to another state, or becomes unfit, a codicil allows for the removal of a guardian and the appointment of another.
- Revise end-of-life wishes. Codicils can include, explain, and ratify the writer’s intended funeral arrangements and burial plan.
What Makes a Codicil Valid?
- The testator must be at least 18 years of age
- The testator must be of sound mind
- The codicil must be signed by the testator or in the presence of the testator by someone authorized to do so
- The codicil must be signed by at least two witnesses, unless the original will was written entirely in the testator’s handwriting, in which case the codicil is valid without witness signatures only if it is also handwritten
When to Re-Write Your Will
With advancements in technology, codicils aren’t really needed or used as much as in the past, when people often wrote their wills by hand. Since drafting a new will was a painstaking process, codicils were introduced as a novel way to save time and energy.
However, estate planning attorneys typically recommend that codicils only be used to effect minor changes, since any inconsistency between the codicil and the original will could lead an Arkansas probate court to invalidate the entire estate plan.
You should most likely re-write your will if you are making any significant changes to your estate plan, such as:
- Adding a new spouse after marriage
- Striking a divorced spouse from your will
- Adding a newborn baby to your estate plan
- Disinheriting an heir
- Reallocating funds from an individual beneficiary to a charity
Contact an Arkansas Attorney Today
An invalid codicil can have unexpected and disastrous consequences. If you are considering creating a codicil or otherwise revising an existing estate plan, you don’t want to leave your legacy in the hands of a probate court.
Quraishi Law & Wealth has years of experience helping Arkansans of all backgrounds create estate plans that meet their needs and reflect their values. Please send us a message online, or call us at 870-275-4304 to schedule your initial consultation.