Thinking about changing your will? Well, you can always write a new one. But if the changes you’d like to make are small, then a codicil might be the answer. So, what is a codicil, and when can it be used? How do you go about adding a codicil to a will? Let’s see…


What is a codicil to a will?

A codicil is a document that changes, adds to, or retracts part of a will. It should be a separate piece of paper, kept with the original will but not attached to it.

Like the original will, codicils need to be signed by two independent witnesses. These witnesses must be over 18, and can’t be married or related to anyone mentioned in the will or the codicil.

While technically there’s no limit to how large or dramatic the alterations in a codicil to a will can be, it’s best to use codicils for small changes, like switching executors or altering the size of one or two gifts. This is because they can make it trickier to carry out your will, or just get lost. So, big and complicated changes are better made with a new will.

If you create your will with Beyond and subscribe, you can get unlimited changes for just £10 a year! Find out more here.


When might you need to add a codicil to a will?

You should review your will every five years, or whenever there’s a big change in your life, like:

  • Getting married or entering a civil partnership (in England and Wales, this usually revokes your old will)
  • Having a new child or grandchild
  • Getting divorced or separated
  • Gaining a new asset (e.g. buying a house, coming into an inheritance)
  • Someone in your current will dies

So, when should you add a codicil to a will rather than making a new one? Codicils are okay for small tweaks, like:

  • Changing an executor in the will (executors sort out your wishes after you die)
  • Changing a guardian in the will (guardians look after your children or pets if you die)
  • Adding or removing an asset in your will (for example, if you left someone your car but later sold it)
  • Changing how much a beneficiary gets
  • Changing which beneficiary gets what

If the change is more complicated than that, you should probably make a new will instead.

It’s also very important to make a new will if the change will affect a big portion of your estate (more than 10%) or give away someone something very valuable, like your house. This is because it’s easy for a codicil to get lost, or forgotten by your executor – especially if you don’t manage to tell them it exists.

If you do decide to make a new will instead of adding a codicil, you’ll need to revoke the old will by destroying it completely.


How much does a codicil cost?

If you go to a local solicitor, a codicil will cost between £40 and £70, depending on how complicated the codicil is. A completely new will from a solicitor costs around £200 to £500.

And if you use Beyond’s online will writing service, your first completely new (and legally binding) will costs just £90 – and with the optional £10 a year subscription, you can make a new will anytime without paying a penny more.

It takes just 10 minutes, and you’ll have our team of friendly legal experts on hand to answer any tricky questions along the way. Find out more about our online wills here.


Does a codicil have to be witnessed?

Yes. For a codicil to be valid, it needs to be signed in front of, and by, two independent witnesses. They don’t have to be the same witnesses as the original will. But, like those witnesses, they must be over 18, and:

  • Not married to, related to or in a civil partnership with you
  • Definitely not a beneficiary of the will
  • Not married or related to a beneficiary in the will

You can find our advice on who can be a witness to a will or codicil here.


How to write a codicil to a will

Codicils can be made with the help of a solicitor. To be valid, a codicil needs to refer to the existing will (the one you’re adapting) by the date that it was made. You’ll also need to make a note of how many codicils have come before it (is this your second codicil?). You, the testator, need to be named. And, as we mentioned above, the finished codicil needs to be properly signed and witnessed.

Once you’ve finished the codicil, don’t attach it to your will. This will make both the will and the codicil invalid. Instead, keep it with the will, and let your executors know where to find both of them.


Don’t put it off – make sure you have an up-do-date will

Over two-thirds of people in the UK don’t have an up-to-date will, leaving hundreds of thousands of families in the lurch. Don’t be one of them. Update your will today, and protect the people you care about.

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