What is a Codicil to a Will?

How to Update a Will in Illinois | What is a Codicil to a Will?

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Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
August 6, 2019

In this article, we explain how to update a will in Illinois and answer the questions “when should I updated my will?”, “can I make handwritten updates to an Illinois will?”, “what is a codicil to a will?”, and “should I amend my will, create a new will, or revoke my will?”

When should I update my will?

Your will should be updated when any of the three situations change:

  • Who you would like to manage your estate (the “executor”);
  • How you would like your assets distributed when you pass; or
  • Who you would like to be the guardian of your minor children should you become mentally incompetent or pass away.  

If your will has been properly drafted, you should not have to update your will if new children or grandchildren are born or if named beneficiaries, executors, or guardians of minor children pass away.  You should however review your will to ensure that it provides for these contingencies.  

Can I make handwritten updates to an Illinois will?

Many people believe that a will can be updated simply by handwriting or typing on the existing will and initialing the change.  This is not the case.  In order to update a will a supplementary document known as a codicil must be drafted and executed in the same manner as the original will.  

What is a codicil to a will?  

A codicil is a supplementary document that is used to make changes to a will.  It sets forth the specific provisions of the will that it seeks to change as well as the language of the new amended provision.  In order to be valid, a codicil must meet the same legal requirements as the original will:

  • The codicil must be signed by the creator of the original will (“the testator”) in the presence of at least two witnesses;
  • The witnesses must execute the will contemporaneously with the testator;
  • The testator and the witnesses must all be at least 18 years old and of sound mind at the time of execution.

Should I amend my will, create a new will, or revoke my will?

If you are only making changes to a few provisions of your will, drafting a codicil may be the best option.  However, if you are making more sweeping changes, it may make more sense to create a new will which revokes your prior will.  For more on this, check out our article: How to Create a Will in Illinois.  

Another option is to simply revoke your prior will, by drafting and execution a Revocation of Will document.  A Revocation of Will must be executed in the same manner as a will.  For more on this, check out: How to Revoke a Will in Illinois.


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