Will Codicil vs. New Will in Minnesota

When you’re creating your estate plan, you’ll want to distinguish between the different types of wills in Minnesota. Knowing the difference between a will codicil and a new will is essential to ensuring you have the proper documents for your wishes to be met. Once you’ve written your will, you can make small changes to the original document using a codicil. But, if you have any significant life changes happen, then you might want to consider writing a new will altogether. This article will outline the differences between the two and help you decide what’s best for your situation. We will cover:

  • What is the difference between a will and a codicil?
  • When do you need a will codicil?
  • When should you write a new will?
  • The importance of creating an estate plan.

What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Codicil?

More formally called a last will and testament, a will is a legal document outlining the details of one’s possessions, including assets and investments, after their death. Once a will is made, people often use a codicil to update and amend their will when needed. Simple changes can be made to the original document using a codicil. There is also the importance of having a living will, different from a last will and testament. This article won’t focus on this type of will, but people must have one in case something happens to them, especially if they have children.

When Do You Need a Will Codicil?

A codicil can change certain provisions within a will and is usually only used to make minor updates to specific items. It is not intended to change the entire document, for that you would need to write an entirely new will. Instead, codicils allow you to make clarifications, additions, and revocations to your existing will. There are no content limits to codicils, but they are really only used for these minor changes. For example, if you acquire a new property, that could be a reason to create a codicil. Property is considered an asset, and it’s important to distinguish which assets will go through probate when you’re creating your will. Ensuring all assets are identified in your will is one way to make the process smoother. Here are some examples of when a codicil may be used:

  • Adding a new beneficiary, such as a new child, grandchild, or spouse.
  • Adding newly acquired property that you wish to give to a specific beneficiary.
  • Removing a property that was sold.
  • Changing the beneficiary of a gift.
  • Adding a provision for the support of your pets after you die.
  • Specifying your burial wishes. 
  • Removing the name of someone that predeceased you.
  • Changing the executor.

When Should You Write a New Will?

It may be best to rewrite the existing will if you have substantial changes happen in your life. The best way to go about this is by going through your existing will, line by line, and marking any changes that need to be made. Once you’ve done that, it’s best to speak with your estate planning attorney to determine the updates and how the new will should be written. When deciding between writing a new will or making a codicil, one thing to consider is that the original will and codicil will become public. If you remove a beneficiary or change something significant, your heirs will see these changes in the codicil. To avoid conflict, it’s often best to write a new will. The following are examples of when a new will should be drafted:

  • To keep the contents of the “old” will private.
  • Creating a new trust or updating an existing trust.
  • If you have more than ten changes you’d like to make in the will. 
  • If you received a large inheritance or acquired significant real estate.
  • To revoke the interest or a beneficiary.
  • If you had a big win in the stock market.
  • If several codicils already exist. 

Often when trusts are involved, it is suggested that a new will be created. The new will leaves less room for error or concern regarding the trust and your beneficiaries. Additionally, if several codicils have already been attached to the will, it may be time to write a new one. This way, you can incorporate your previous codicils into the new will, along with any current changes you plan to make. 

Importance of Creating an Estate Plan

Writing a will is just one component of creating an estate plan, which is the legal process of preparing for the future. It might feel morbid to think about what’s going to happen when you die, but in reality having an estate plan will make things much easier for your family. Estate planning covers various legal aspects, which will vary depending on how many assets you have and your family. It might seem overwhelming to get started, but estate planning is crucial if you want people to know your wishes once you’ve passed. It is imperative if you have children who will need to be looked after. Here are just a few other reasons why estate planning is so crucial:

  • Distributes assets and legacy wishes. 
  • With a living will, a health care proxy gives someone you trust the authority to make healthcare decisions for you in case you cannot make them yourself.
  • Beneficiaries can be set up for family members you want to look out for. 
  • Covers funeral expenses and makes any final arrangements you wish.
  • Minimizes the probate process and any expenses, delays, or loss of privacy.
  • Avoids any fighting among family members left behind by giving clear direction.
  • Ability to incorporate charitable giving and business succession.
  • A financial power of attorney allows someone to help with financial affairs if you are unable to manage them.

Writing a Will or a Codicil

Now that you know the difference between a codicil and a new will, you will be able to distinguish which one you need next time you have to make changes to your will. Of course, if you don’t have a will yet, you will want to get started on creating an estate plan. Having the help of an experienced attorney is essential in this process, as they can help you identify assets and make sure you aren’t missing any key steps. If you need to make any significant will changes, you will know if you need a codicil or a new will altogether.