Jill and her husband, Jack, each executed a Last Will and Testament in 2010. Since that time they have come to distrust the person they named to serve as executor of their estates and the person they had named as alternate executor has died. In addition, Jill and Jack have decided they no longer want to benefit one of the charities to whom they had left a portion of their residuary estate. These are the only changes they want to make to their wills with all else left the same. Do they have to execute a new will or is there a simpler process for making these changes?

The changes that Jill and Jack need to make to their wills can be accomplished through the execution of a codicil to their current wills. A codicil is an amendment to an existing will. It can change or omit current provisions or add ones not previously included.

With the changes similar to Jill and Jack’s, most codicils will recite that a particular paragraph is removed and that a new stated paragraph is being substituted. Jill and Jack’s codicil will state that Paragraph III containing the names of the executor and the alternate executor is omitted and replaced by a new Paragraph III giving the newly named persons to serve as executor and alternate executor.

Paragraph V of Jill and Jack’s wills contained the distributions to be made from their residuary estate. Their codicil will recite that the old Paragraph V is omitted and the new Paragraph V naming the new charity is being substituted.

Jill and Jack’s codicil will have to contain an Attestation Clause,which states that the codicil is being witnessed by two witnesses. Further, the codicil should be followed by a Self-Proving Affidavit which is signed by the two witnesses and notarized by a Notary Public. Without the Self-Proving Affidavit the witnesses have to testify in person at the court hearing when the will and codicil are probated after the testator’s death.

In general, adding a codicil to an existing will is less expensive than completing a new will. This is true, because, unless, the changes are complex, it will not require the lawyer drafting the will to expend as much time as would drafting a new will.

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.