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What is a codicil and when is it used?

The field of estate planning is mired in confusion for many of us.  Terms like “intestacy” and “testamentary capacity” may elicit uncertainty in the minds of individuals with limited exposure to the estate planning world.  Unclear on the definitions of many estate planning terms and unsure about the steps to take to create an estate plan, some people may put off estate planning until it is too late.  Our Tampa Bay estate planning lawyers offer some definitions of important concepts in estate planning to help you enter the estate planning process with knowledge and clarity.

Essential Estate Planning Terms to Know

Review the definitions below and be sure contact an estate planning lawyer for more information about any concepts that remain unclear to you.

  1. Last Will and Testament:  Commonly abbreviated to “a will,” your last will and testament is a signed document that names who you want to receive your assets and whom you want to manage the disposition of your assets.  Your will must comply with certain formalities set out in Florida state law in order to be upheld by the court.
  2. Intestate:  Dying intestate means passing away without a valid will.  Should you die without drafting a legally valid will, the court will apply the laws of intestacy in your state and distribute your assets accordingly.  
  3. Testamentary capacity:  Testamentary capacity is defined as having sufficient capacity to create a valid will.  Adults will typically be presumed to have capacity, but capacity can be challenged if family members or others have concerns about the creator’s decision making.  For example, if the will maker had Alzheimer’s disease at the time of creation of a new will, his or her capacity could be in question.
  4. Codicil:  A codicil is an amendment to an already existing will.  Codicils used to be commonplace as life changes required alterations to a will.  Now, with most wills in digital form, codicils have become less common as attorneys will usually simply redraft the will.
  5. Personal representative or executor:  The personal representative or executor is the individual you name in your will to handle the probate proceedings.  The executor will need to notify all heirs, manage estate funds, and distribute estate assets.  It is an important role and you should name both your executor, along with an alternative executor should the first be unable to serve, with care.

Creating an estate plan is mentally taxing as it requires contemplation of your death.  Making an estate plan is about far more than death, however, as it allows you the opportunity to convey your last wishes for your family’s life.  With an estate plan, you can leave a lasting legacy for your loved ones.