What Is A Codicil?

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 25th October 2023

Your will is a roadmap for your belongings after you're gone. But life is unpredictable, and your circumstances can (and probably will) change over time. This is where a "codicil" comes in.

What is a Codicil?

A codicil is an add-on or amendment to an existing will.


As we all know, life isn't static, and neither are your wishes. Sometimes, you might want to change who gets what, add an executor, include new assets, or even remove someone from your will entirely. That's where a codicil comes in – it's basically a legal document that changes your will without completely rewriting it.

Picture this scenario: You've made a will, specifying who inherits your vintage vinyl collection, your beloved pup, or that cozy little cottage by the lake. But then, a few years down the road, you inherit a rare first-edition book or decide to donate a portion of your estate to charity.

Instead of redoing your entire will (which can be a hassle), you can use a codicil to update it with these new details.

But that's not all. Life events, like marriage, divorce, or the arrival of new family members, can change your wishes too. With a codicil, you can ensure your will remains current and reflective of what you want to happen to your stuff, or who looks after your children, when you die.

What can you change with a codicil?

You can use a codicil to make small changes to your will, like:

  • Changing or adding an executor

  • Adding or removing beneficiaries

  • Adding or removing wishes for new or existing assets

  • Changing or adding guardian selection for children under 118

How to write a valid codicil?


To be valid and enforceable, a codicil must meet certain legal requirements. Much like your will these rules are in place to make sure that your wishes are clear and your codicil can stand up to scrutiny if ever challenged.

Codicil structure

It's always best to let a legal professional help you create a codicil, but here are a few tips on how yours should be structured:

  • Make it clear that the document is a codicil to your will;

  • State your full name, address, and the date you're making the codicil;

  • Include a statement confirming that you are of sound mind and you are changing the will of your own accord (i.e. no one is pressuring you to do it);

  • Explain in clear and simple language what you are changing or adding;

  • If you refer to people by name, use their full legal names.

  • State clearly that the codicil should overrule what you wrote in your previous will and that anything not affected by the codicil remains valid.

  • Capacity: You must have the mental capacity to understand the changes you're making. In simple terms, you need to be of sound mind when creating a codicil.

  • Signature: Your codicil should be signed by you (the testator) or someone you authorise in your presence.

  • Witnesses: Typically, you need at least two witnesses to sign your codicil. These witnesses should not be beneficiaries in your will or the codicil, ensuring impartiality.

Date: Always date your codicil to establish when it was made. This helps if there are multiple versions or disputes down the road.

Codicil vs. rewriting your will

Should you make a codicil or rewrite your will entirely? There are benefits to both, and which you choose depends on your situations.

Why use a codicil to update your will?

Time and Cost Efficiency: One of the most significant advantages of opting for a codicil is that it's a faster and more cost-effective way to update your will.

Flexibility: Codicils offer flexibility. If you only need to make a few tweaks, like changing a beneficiary or adding a new asset, a codicil is the way to go. It allows you to keep the core of your will intact while making specific adjustments.

Minimal Disruption: Rewriting your entire will can be a major disruption, requiring more time, effort, and legal fees. With a codicil, you avoid this upheaval, ensuring that your main wishes remain unchanged.

Continuity: If you've already made provisions for funeral arrangements, guardianship of your children, or specific bequests in your will, a codicil lets you update these details without redoing everything.

Cost: It is usually much cheaper to add a codicil to an existing will than start from scratch.

When to rewrite your will

Major Overhaul: If your life circumstances have undergone a significant change, such as a new marriage, divorce, or a substantial change in your assets, it might be best to rewrite your will. This ensures that your will aligns perfectly with your current situation.

Simplicity: If your original will is complex and hard to understand, it might be simpler to start afresh, creating a new will that's clear and easy to interpret. Lots of codicils can be confusing, what's more they are more likely to be lost. Consolidating them into one new will may be a better option than constantly amending an existing one.

In short, codicils are handy for small updates and maintaining the continuity of your will. However, if you're facing significant life changes that impacts more than 10% of your estate or need to simplify your will, starting from scratch may be the better option.

Whatever you decide, remember that your will is a reflection of your wishes, so it's crucial to keep it up-to-date. If you're unsure about which path to take, consulting with a solicitor can provide valuable guidance tailored to your circumstances.

How much does a codicil cost?

A codicil can cost anywhere between £20 and £100, although this may vary depending on how complicated the changes are and if you choose to use the services of a wills, trust and probate solicitor.

Do I need a solicitor for a codicil?

You don’t need a solicitor to add a codicil to your will. But DIY codicils can sometimes lead to unintended consequences, or even invalidate your whole will if they don’t meet legal requirements. This is the a worst case scenario which could lead to your assets being distributed according to the rules of intestacy, rather than your wishes.

A solicitor can draft the document and ensure it complies with all legal requirements, from capacity and signature to witnesses and clarity of intent. They can also keep a copy of your codicil and will in their secure records, which can be crucial for future reference.

If you are looking to make changes to your will, Lawhive is here to provide you with accessible and efficient legal help from the very best wills, trust and probate solicitors in the UK. With our user friendly online platform, you can easily connect with a solicitor who specialises in updating your will. No need to worry about expensive hourly rates, as we offer fixed fee quotes to suit your budget.

Don’t wait to take the first step to securing your future, tell us about your case through our simple online form, and let our trusted solicitors guide you through the process of ensuring your will reflects your wishes.

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