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Learn what is a codicil? When is a codicil valid? What are the benefits and drawbacks?

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  1. 1. Codicils
  2. 2. • A codicil is a document that amends, alters, or supplements a pre-existing Last Will and Testament • Instead of drafting an entire new will, a codicil can be used to change specific provisions of a will, while leaving others unchanged • Codicils can range in length between a few sentences or paragraphs, to a number of pages • While a codicil is a separate, independent physical document to a will, it is clearly tied to the will that it amends What is a codicil?
  3. 3. • For a codicil to be valid, Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, RSO 1990, c S 26 (the “SLRA”) prescribes that the document must adhere to the same formal validity requirements that apply to a will • Subject to certain exceptions, a codicil must be: • in writing; • signed at the end by a testator; and • signed by two attesting witnesses, present at the same time, in the presence of the testator • A testator may also make a holograph codicil, consistent with section 6 of the SLRA • For more information on the issue of formal validity, review our SlideShare presentation on this topic at: validity-of-wills When is a codicil valid?
  4. 4. • Codicils may be useful when a testator wishes only to make minor alterations to their will, without having to draft an entirely new will • Such minor changes could include: • Adding or removing an executor (for example, after an executor named in the will has died) • Adding, removing or altering a specific bequest (for example, after property that is subject to a specific bequest is sold) • Adding beneficiaries, such as a new child or grandchild Benefits of a Codicil
  5. 5. • If a testator wishes to make multiple and/or more complex revisions to their estate plan, it may be preferable to instead execute a new will entirely • For example, a new will may be more appropriate when a testator: • Makes multiple changes to their estate plan • If a codicil is particularly complicated, it may be more likely that it will be disputed after the testator dies • Seeks to disinherit a beneficiary • Excluding a beneficiary from a will can be a contentious decision, and may be more appropriately documented in a new will • Has pre-existing codicils • Creating multiple codicils increases the risk of confusion and potential conflicts with the terms of the original will, or the earlier codicils to the will Drawbacks of a Codicil
  6. 6. • As each codicil is its own independent document, another drawback is that a codicil may become accidentally separated from the corresponding will • If either document is missing, the estate plan may not function as the testator intended • If a codicil is somehow lost or separated from the original will, the executor may not know that the codicil exists and the will may erroneously be admitted to probate without the changes that the testator had intended and outlined within one or more codicils • Although codicils may not seem to have as great an impact on an estate plan as a Last Will and Testament, they are important testamentary documents – individuals who wish to alter the terms of their will by way of a codicil should consult an estate lawyer for assistance in doing so Drawbacks of a Codicil (continued)
  7. 7. Thank you for reading!