The pitfalls of Codicils and why a Will is a better choice

The pitfalls of Codicils and why a Will is a better choice

When it comes to estate planning, making sure that your wishes are carried out after you die is important.  Many people make a Will to show how they wish their assets and possessions to be distributed on their death. However, some people choose to make a Codicil to make changes to their existing Wills. Codicils may seem like an easy option, but they have pitfalls that can make them less favourable compared to making a new Will.

A Codicil is a legal document that can be made to make amendments or additions to your existing Will. It can seem like a cost effective and easier way to update your existing Will, without having to rewrite the whole document, but there are many reasons why Codicils can lead to complications and unintended consequences when you pass away:

Confusion and Ambiguity

Codicils can sometimes create confusion and ambiguity when they are used to amend or make additions to your existing Will. Making multiple Codicils can lead to a complicated and confusing document which may make it difficult for your Executors and beneficiaries to understand, leading to conflicting provisions in the Will and its Codicils, leaving them open to disputes and legal challenges.

Risk of Separating or Losing Documents

A Codicil is a separate document from your original Will and this could lead to issues if one of them gets lost or destroyed.  If your Codicil is lost, this can make instructions or amendments to your original Will ineffective, and potentially cause an unintended distribution of your assets.

Complexity for Executors

An Executor’s job is to be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out as specified in your Will. When a Codicil has been made, your Executor's job could become more complicated, as this could require them to go through multiple documents and they could interpret your wishes inaccurately. This could slow down the probate process, resulting in additional legal fees and possible disputes.

Legal Formalities

A Codicil must follow the same legal formalities as a Will, so the need for proper legal advice from a Solicitor is advised. If these formalities are not properly met, this can make the Codicil invalid and potentially lead to the incorrect distribution of your assets.

Lack of a Proper Review of your Will

If you make a Codicil to change your Will, it's easy to focus on the specific amendments or additions you want to make without actually reviewing the document as a whole. This could cause confusion, inconsistencies or contradictions between your original Will and the Codicil, which could lead to disputes among beneficiaries and even legal challenges.

In view of the pitfalls associated with Codicils, Solicitors would always recommend that you consider reviewing and making a new Will when you need to make any or substantial changes to your old one.

Removing a Beneficiary

If you are creating a Codicil to remove a beneficiary from your original Will, bear in mind that if Probate is required when you pass away, it is possible for the beneficiary you have removed to see the original Will. Once Probate has been granted your Will, and any Codicils, become public documents. Creating a new Will instead avoids the chance of a beneficiary realising they have been removed from your old Will.

These are some reasons why drafting a new Will is often a better choice...

Organization and Clarity

Making a new Will lets you create an organized and clear document that reflects your current wishes. You should review your entire Will, with a Solicitor, thus ensuring that all provisions meet your wishes.

Avoiding Confusion and Simplicity for your Executors

Making a new Will helps to prevent ambiguity, as there are no other documents (e.g. Codicils) to make matters complicated. This will reduce the risk of any potential disputes among your beneficiaries. A single, updated Will makes your executor's job easier, enabling them to carry out your wishes efficiently.

Legal Requirements

Making a whole new Will with a Solicitor makes sure that it meets all up to date legal requirement and reduces the risk of any invalidation.

So, while Codicils may seem like an easy and cost effective way to amend an existing Will, they do have various pitfalls that could end up complicating the probate process or lead to unintended distribution of your estate. Making a new Will when your wishes or circumstances change is often a better choice, as it gives much greater clarity and organization, and ensures compliance with current legal requirements. To make sure that your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes, always seek expert legal advice from a qualified Solicitor to create your Will.

If you would like to discuss any of the above information please contact us on 0116 212 1000 to book an appointment with a specialist solicitor.

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