What is a Codicil

A codicil is an addendum of any kind to a will. Codicils can alter, change, add to or subtract from the provisions in the will. They can be used to keep a will and testament current and up to date.


Codicils must be created by the original creator of the will. They are separate documents in and of themselves and can lead to either minor or major changes in the will. All codicils must meet the same legal administrative requirements as the original will and testament, and they must each affirm that the original will is valid except for the changes outlined inside.

Codicils derive their name from the Middle English term codicill, which is from the Anglo-French codicille and the Latin codicillus, which meant a writing tablet and codex, which meant book. Therefore, the term codicil translates into the literal meaning of a little codex, or little book, which is a little bit of writing on a small piece of writing material, used to add to or change something about a larger piece of writing. In this case, the codicil is adding, subtracting, or changing the provisions of a will. The use of a codicil can be traced back just as far to ancient times in 1400, when, for instance, an heir needed to be named.

Example of a Codicil

Even though a codicil is technically an addendum to the original will, it can change the terms of the will entirely or null and void the original will. Because of the serious nature of codicils and their power to change the entire will, two witnesses are usually required to sign when a codicil is added, much like in creating the original will itself. Some states, however, have loosened the legal regulations surrounding codicils and now allow for them to notarized at a public notary.

You may be familiar with codicils from movie scenes in which a will codicil is dramatically revealed at the last minute to the astonishment of family members. However, in real life, codicils very rarely produce much drama and are used more for changes that don’t warrant drafting up an entirely new will. Some legal experts believe that you shouldn’t just rely on a codicil, but that it may be advisable to draw up a new will altogether if changes are warranted, especially since much of the legal proceedings are similar.

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