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Codicils in Virginia

A codicil is an estate planning document that adds to or alters certain provisions of an existing will and therefore are required to be executed with the same formalities as a will. A person over the age of 18 with legal capacity may execute a will or codicil.

If you wish to learn more about Codicils in Virginia, contact a knowledgeable attorney. A Virginia trusts and estates lawyer may be able to provide you with more information.

Formalities of Executing an Altered Provision

A codicil is legally valid in Virginia if it is in writing signed by the testator or by a person in the testator’s presence at his or her direction. It could also be generally required that it is signed by two disinterested witnesses in the testator’s presence (see Virginia Code Section 64.2-403). A disinterested witness is a person who will not derive any beneficial interest.

An exception to the witness requirement is a holographic codicil. If it is written out entirely in the testator’s handwriting and signed and dated by the testator, it may be a valid holographic codicil.

To be enforceable in Virginia, the writing should also demonstrate testamentary intent, meaning the testator intends for the document to take effect upon his or her death. When the holographic codicil is admitted to the probate court, two disinterested witnesses will need to authenticate to the testator’s handwriting.

Whenever possible, it is helpful to execute a more formal codicil with the assistance of an attorney. This will help reduce the potential likelihood of litigation or disagreements arising from a handwritten document. Virginia law does not require that a will or codicil be notarized, however, it is considered best practice to sign these documents in the presence of a notary public.

When Should Someone Use a Codicil?

A codicil is an option for clients who would like to make minor changes to their will without redrafting the entire document. It may be used to make changes like:

  • Adding or removing a beneficiary
  • Changing a personal representative
  • Adding dispositions for newly acquired property

It should not be used if its terms are going to directly conflict with a testator’s existing will. In that scenario, the entire will should be replaced.

Although it is legally permissible to have multiple codicils, having more than one may result in confusion. The more alterations a person has, the more difficult it will be for the person reviewing these documents to clearly decipher final wishes.

If a person would like to make several changes to their will or avoid the potential confusion a change may cause, it is worthwhile to simply execute a new cohesive will. After they execute a codicil, a person should keep this document stored with their will. A person’s will and any associated codicils in Virginia may need to be filed together with the court upon their death.

Revocation

You may revoke a codicil at any time prior to your death. However, it will remain legally effective until such time as you chose to revoke it. You can revoke it by physically destroying the original document. Physical destruction is accomplished when the document is torn up, burned, etc., either by the testator or by someone in the testator’s presence at their direction. An alteration can also be revoked in writing when a testator properly executes a subsequent will or codicil that revokes all prior codicils.

Speak with an Attorney about Codicils in Virginia

Even if you have a will in place, you can still take steps to change it to reflect your current wishes. If you are interested in executing a new will or codicil in Virginia, contact an estate planning attorneys today.