Having a complete and accurate Will is essential to effective estate planning. However, it is common for a testator’s intentions to change after writing their Will. This could be because they acquired new property or formed new relationships with people who they would like to leave part of their estate to.
Any of these scenarios can create the need to amend a Will. An amendment in a Will, also known as a codicil, can go into effect at any time. As long as you follow the correct procedures, a codicil can add new clauses to a Will, delete sections, or make changes to existing language. A knowledgeable attorney can provide more information about codicils in Raleigh and help you make legal changes to your existing Will.
A codicil is a legal term that describes an amendment to a Will. Once a testator creates a Will, the document remains in effect until that person dies. According to North Carolina General Statutes § 31-5.1, the only way to change a pre-existing Will is to enact a codicil.
A codicil may function in three ways:
Alternatively, parties may change an existing Will by creating a new one. This has the effect of overriding the old document. For this reason, the dates next to the signatures are critically important when comparing two Wills. If two Wills contain contradictory language, the newer document carries full legal weight. A well-practiced local attorney can further explain the roles that codicils play in changing existing Wills.
A person may change their Will through the use of a codicil at any time and for any reason. Perhaps the most common reason for changing a Will is a new potential heir. The birth of a child, getting a divorce, or even meeting new friends could all motivate a person to enact a codicil.
Similarly, obtaining new property could be a reason to change a Will. For instance, an old Will may say, “Person A gets my car.” However, if the testator buys a second car, their Will becomes confusing and incomplete. Using a codicil to say that “Person A gets all my cars,” or “Person B gets Car X” is a way to alleviate any potential confusion.
Another possible use for a codicil is to intentionally disinherit a party. The main purpose of a Will is to avoid the state’s laws that take effect when a person dies intestate. When this occurs, potential heirs all receive an equal share of the estate.
If a potential heir learns of their omittance in a Will, it is possible that they may try to contest the document’s legality. Specifically disinheriting these people can help to leave no ambiguity about a testator’s intent. Especially when a new child arrives or a testator gets married, it is important to seek legal advice on using a codicil to reinforce disinheritance.
Creating a Will locks a person’s wishes until their death. However, this does not mean that a testator cannot change their Will. It is possible to add language, delete sections, or modify existing terms in a Will. As long as these codicils take the proper form and include the signatures of witnesses, the amendment is legal at any time.
A seasoned attorney can help you make changes to your Wills. If you obtain new property, identify a new heir, or simply change your mind, a lawyer at our firm can explain the relevant legal processes and draft language the gives your codicil legal power. Call today to learn more from a member of our team.