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How to make a Codicil

Create a codicil to slightly adjust and change your will without the hassle of making a whole new will.

Recently reviewed by Adnan Mahmood, Solicitor and Head of Legal, UK.

This codicil was last reviewed on 17 October 2022.

A codicil is a legal document used to alter an existing (and current) will. Codicils are used to make one or a few minor, non-complex changes to a will. Making a codicil can be more efficient than creating a whole new will.

Use this codicil: 

  • when you already have a valid and current will in place, which you want to alter

  • if none of the changes you’re making are complex

  • if you only want to make one change or a few changes to your will

  • if you live in England, Scotland or Wales 

If you want to make more changes or complex changes using a codicil or require specific advice, make use of our Will and codicil drafting service.

This codicil template covers:

  • which will the codicil applies to and any previous codicils you’ve made to this will

  • the changes you’re making to your will, including the option to: 

    • add, remove, or change a gift 

    • appoint, remove, or replace an executor

    • appoint, remove, or replace a guardian

    • appoint or remove beneficiaries of your residuary estate

    • record a beneficiary’s, executor’s, or guardian’s name change

    • record a beneficiary’s, executor’s, or guardian’s change of address

    • update your burial or funeral wishes

    • make any other change you wish (if choosing this option, make sure you draft your change carefully. Alternatively, you can get help drafting your codicil)

  • signing your codicil and confirming that everything in your will (as amended by previous codicils) that hasn’t been changed by your new codicil still stands

  • witnesses’ signatures and details

Wills and codicils is an area of law that uses a lot of specific legal terms. Some of the essential terminology that you may need to understand to create your codicil includes: 

  • testator - the person who made the will and who is now making the codicil (ie you)

  • beneficiary - somebody who's given something (eg a gift) in your will

  • executor - an executor is someone who is appointed to carry out the administrative tasks associated with your will (and any related codicils) after you die. For example, distributing gifts and paying taxes

  • guardian - somebody appointed to look after your children if all of their parents (or current guardians) die. For more information, read Appointing a guardian

  • gift (also known as a 'legacy' or a 'bequest') - something that is left to someone. Gifts can be of money (ie a ‘pecuniary gift’), or of a specific item, eg a painting or some company shares (ie a ‘specific gift’)

  • estate - the total collection of things that you own on your death, including money, real property (eg houses), personal property, and other assets

  • residuary estate (also known as a 'residue' or the 'remainder' of your estate) - what's left of your estate after all  gifts (apart from the ‘residuary gifts’) have been distributed and costs paid (eg administrative costs and taxes)

  • residuary beneficiary - somebody who you appoint to receive your residuary estate or a portion of it (a ‘residuary gift’). You can appoint multiple residuary beneficiaries who will share your residuary estate equally between themselves. If you have no residuary beneficiaries, your residuary estate will pass according to the intestacy laws of England and Wales or of Scotland

For more information, read Elements of a will

Codicils are a convenient and efficient way of making minor changes to a will. However, in some circumstances, making a new will may be more appropriate. Such circumstances include: 

  • you want to make lots of changes to your will (eg 5 or more)

  • you want to make a complex change (eg setting up a complicated trust or gifting different components of a large collection of similar items to different people)

  • you’re changing your will in response to a significant life event (eg getting married, buying a house, or having a child), or 

  • you’ve already made multiple codicils (eg 2 or more) for this will and keeping track of your current wishes has become complex

If you decide to make a new will, you can do so using our Last will and testament (for England and Wales) or Last will and testament for Scotland (for Scotland) or our Bespoke will writing service. Making a whole new will can help ensure your wishes are set out clearly.

For more information, read Codicils and Reasons to make a will

Creating a valid codicil requires you to meet essentially the same requirements as creating a valid will. 

A codicil must be written down, signed, and witnessed. It must be created voluntarily by somebody who is of sound mind (ie aware of the contents and implications of the document they’re creating and its effect on their current will).

Your codicil should be signed and witnessed in line with the rules in the Wills Act 1837, the same way a will would be. The codicil must be: 

  • signed by hand (ie on paper), and

  • signed in the presence of two independent witnesses over 18 (in England and Wales) or one independent witness over 16 (in Scotland), who meet(s) other certain criteria (ie are/is not a beneficiary or executor of your will or codicil)

For more information, read Codicils and Executing a will.

You must also ensure that you do not physically attach your codicil to your will as this could be considered altering the original will, which would invalidate it. It’s a good idea to store your codicil in the same place as your will - just don’t attach it. For more information, read Codicils and Storing your will.

Your codicil must also apply to a current and valid will in order to be effective itself. If you create an otherwise valid codicil to a will which has been cancelled and replaced, or which was never valid (eg because it was witnessed incorrectly), the wishes you’ve set out in your codicil will not stand alone (ie they will not be legally valid and need not be followed when you die).

When you describe a gift, person (eg a beneficiary), or anything else (eg burial wishes) in your codicil, it’s important to be specific. If what you’re describing cannot be accurately identified, provisions relating to it (eg gifts or appointments) are likely to be ineffective.

This is particularly important for gifts. If, for example, you attempt to gift your ‘cat painting’ but do not specify which cat painting if you own multiple, this gift will likely fail. Similarly, if you attempt to gift your shares in a particular company but don’t specify which class of shares or how many, and you own multiple, this gift may fail. If a gift fails, the property you’re attempting to gift will either be passed as previously set out or with your residuary estate.

Gifts will also fail if the property you’re gifting does not form a part of your estate when you die (eg if you’ve already sold it or given it away).

If you’re unsure how to set a gift out clearly enough in your codicil, consider using our Will and codicil writing service for help.

If you have questions about how to make your codicil, you can Ask a lawyer for assistance. Also consider asking for advice if:

  • you want to make complex changes or lots of changes to how you want your assets to be handled and children cared for after your death

  • you own property abroad (as your estate may be subject to more complex taxes)

  • you want to set up a trust in your will (eg to specify when and how a beneficiary can receive the assets you leave them)

Other names for Codicil

Will codicil, Codicil to a will.