Better take legal advice when writing a testament

Drafting a codicil – an amendment to your will – in the presence of a witness ensures the changes stipulated will be respected, given that witnesses should have no vested interest in the testament. Codicil is used when minor changes are made to the contents of a will, such as adding or removing an executor.

How to Correctly Draft a Codicil

Codicil should only be used when modifications to the testament are minimal. A new testament should be drafted if the marital or relationship status of the testator changes, a new beneficiary is added or an existing one is deleted, or the value of the estate changes. A codicil is effective when changing an executor or a guardian. Witnesses to amendments should be unrelated parties who will not be bequeathed any portion of the testator’s estate. A judge may invalidate a testament if gifts are given to a witness unless there are a minimum number of additional witnesses that will not benefit from the will. Witnesses should also be unrelated to any beneficiary.

How to Correctly Execute a Codicil

To adequately execute an amendment, certain conditions must be met to ensure greater security. All amendments must be in writing, and a statement certifying that the modified testament is the last will must be appended to the document. The revised will should also bear the date and location of the signing and state that the amendment was signed in the presence of a witness or witnesses who can attest to their own presence and that of the other witnesses. A notarized affidavit can be used to make a codicil self-attesting, meaning each witness must swear an oath and sign the affidavit in the presence of a notary. This step allows testators to execute an amendment without going to court.

Given that amendments are subject to the law of the testator’s jurisdiction at the time of death, it is essential that codicil be drafted and executed correctly so that it can be verified by a probate court. Testators are encouraged to seek legal advice when amending a will to avoid invalidation and to secure the contents of the testament.