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What is a codicil?

Posted by Nigel Merchant | 17-Oct-2023 11:24:52

A codicil is a legal document that’s used to modify, add to, or revoke certain provisions of an existing Will. Instead of spending time and money writing an entirely new Will, a person can use a codicil to make minor changes or updates.

In this article, we’ll explore what a codicil is used for and what Testators (individuals making a Will) should consider when creating one.


Why is a codicil important?

As we all know, life is unpredictable. Chances are, you will experience multiple life events or changes in circumstances that affect your intentions as set out in your existing Will. For example, the birth of a child, a marriage or divorce, or buying a house.

It's crucial to ensure that your Will remains up to date with your current circumstances and wishes – unfortunately, a Post-It note amendment won’t cut it. A codicil ensures that your last testament reflects your current wishes, without needing a full rewrite.


Click here to read our blog on 8 life events that should trigger a Will update.


Is it possible to write your own codicil?

Yes, it is possible to write your own codicil. However, there are several important considerations to keep in mind if you choose to do so:

  • Legal formalities. Just like a Will, a codicil must adhere to specific legal formalities to be valid. This means it must be signed and witnessed in a particular manner. A codicil that isn't correctly executed can be challenged and deemed invalid in a court of law.
  • Clarity. If you're drafting your own codicil, it's crucial to be as clear and specific as possible. Ambiguities can lead to confusion, disputes, or even legal challenges after the Testator's death.
  • Consistency with original Will. The codicil should not contradict any other parts of the original Will unless that's your specific intention. If there are inconsistencies, it may lead to disputes or challenges regarding the Testator’s intentions.
  • Seek legal advice. Even if you decide to draft your own codicil, it's always a good idea to have it reviewed by a Solicitor or legal professional with expertise in Wills and estate planning. They can identify any potential issues and ensure that the codicil is legally sound.
  • Is a codicil the right way to make the changes you want to make? Depending on the scale of the changes you’re making, drafting a new Will might be clearer and less prone to challenges than adding multiple codicils. It’s important to follow the required legal UK protocols when creating a codicil to ensure it stands up to scrutiny and accurately records the Testator's amended wishes.


What could make a codicil invalid?

As stated above, a codicil, just like a Will, must adhere to certain legal formalities to be valid. If these requirements aren't met, the codicil could be deemed invalid.

  • Firstly, the person making the codicil (the Testator) must have the necessary mental capacity at the time of its creation. This means they should understand the nature of the document they’re signing and the implications of the changes they’re making. If there's any doubt about the Testator's mental state, the codicil could be challenged on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity.
  • Another critical requirement for a codicil's validity is its proper execution. In the UK, a codicil must typically be signed by the Testator in the presence of two witnesses, who then also sign the codicil in the Testator's presence. These witnesses shouldn't be beneficiaries under the Will or the codicil, or married to a beneficiary, as this could invalidate the Will when the Testator passes.
  • Undue influence or coercion can render a codicil invalid. If it's believed that someone pressured or unduly influenced the Testator into making certain changes in the codicil, it can be challenged and potentially set aside by the UK law courts.
  • Lastly, the codicil needs to be clear and unambiguous. If its provisions are contradictory or confusing, especially in relation to the original Will, it might lead to disputes and legal challenges, potentially invalidating the codicil or parts of it.


How much does a Solicitor charge for a codicil?

The cost of having a codicil drafted by a Solicitor can vary widely based on several factors. These factors include the complexity of the changes being made, the reputation and experience of the Solicitor, the geographic location of the firm, and the level of service provided.

Many Solicitors charge on an hourly basis, so the total cost will depend on the time taken to draft and finalise the codicil. If you require multiple meetings, consultations, or extensive revisions, the overall price will increase. Some firms might offer a fixed fee for drafting a codicil, which can help in ensuring that you know upfront how much you'll be paying. Regardless of the cost, it's essential to ensure that the Solicitor or firm you choose has expertise in Wills and estate planning to guarantee that the codicil is legally sound and accurately reflects your wishes.

It's always a good idea to obtain quotes from multiple Solicitors or law firms to get a sense of the expected costs. This stands true whether you’re instructing them to draft a codicil or for other services, such as probate and estate administration.


Click here to download our free 'We take care of estate administration' guide.


Who are Kings Court Trust?

As award-winning probate specialists, Kings Court Trust is dedicated to serving individuals and families throughout the UK in need of probate and estate administration services. We’ll take care of all the complicated matters after death so you can focus on what matters most to you. We can also be named as Executors in your Will to ensure that your wishes are carried out correctly even if the other Executor(s) cannot act. Read our blog on the benefits of instructing a professional.

If you have any questions about the estate administration process, including how to apply for a Grant of Probate, please reach out to our Client Services Team at 0300 303 9000 or by filling out the form below.


Author: Nigel Merchant

Nigel Merchant is a Technical Manager at Kings Court Trust, where he has worked for over 15 years. Nigel has conducted over 2,000 family meetings and built up a huge amount of technical knowledge to share with partners and clients. Nigel has a calm and empathetic delivery which helps to achieve the business’ purpose of helping families to move on. Previously, Nigel worked at HSBC bank for over 25 years in the branch network, lastly as a Branch Manager and Personal Banking Manager, highlighting that customer service is a key driver for Nigel.

Topics: Estate Planning, Wills