A codicil changes a previously executed will. It does not revoke a previous will like a new will would. An amendment by a codicil can add or revoke relatively minor provisions or may completely change most or all of the gifts given under the will. Each codicil must meet the legal requirements as an original will. For example, the signature of the testator or, in Texas, two disinterested witnesses.
An important question is whether or not a codicil is really necessary in today’s modern world. Before computers it made sense that there was a need to have a, relatively, quick and easy way to change the provisions of a will without having to rewrite the entire document. Today, with computers there is no need to rewrite an entire will. Word processors allow people to change part of a document and keep some or all of the rest of it the same.
Most modern estate attorneys agree that a codicil is more trouble than it is worth. Many will contests have been won or lost on the basis of a determination that something is either a will or a codicil. Sometimes people have not had their wishes followed because what they thought was a new will actually turned out to be a codicil, or vice versa.
When changing a will, or doing any estate planning, the best practice is to simply make a new will that completely overrides an old will. That way, there is no question about what a person’s wishes are. Will contests can be expensive and emotionally draining and they can often be avoided by writing a new will and avoiding codicils.