CHANGING YOUR WILL
Once people already have their Wills in place, they often find themselves in a position where they want to change or add a particular provision. The easiest way to go about adding a new stipulation to one’s Will is to draft a Codicil.
A Codicil is defined as a supplement or an addition to a Will. It may explain, modify, add to, subtract from, qualify, alter, restrain or revoke provisions that are present in an existing Will. By adding a Codicil, it does not revoke the existing Will in its entirety but rather amends it to reflect the desired changes and modifications.
The execution of a Codicil in New York State is implemented the exact same way as the Will itself. Often times people will attempt to have a Codicil drafted and then notarized. This is not valid execution. To properly execute a Will and Codicil in the state of New York, the following requirements must be met:
1. The testator (person who makes the Will) must be at least 18
2. The Will and/or Codicil must be signed by the testator
3. Testator’s signature must be at the end of the Will/Codicil
4. Testator must “publish” the Will/codicil by declaring the document to be their last Will & Testament
5. There must be at least 2 witnesses attesting to testator’s signature of the Will/Codicil
6. The execution ceremony must be completed within 30 days, which begins to toll when the first witness signs the document. This ceremony consists of getting all the signatures completed and having the testator attest and acknowledge that he/she is implementing their Will/Codicil.
7. Testator must sign or acknowledge signature of Will/Codicil in the presence of each witness.
New York doesn’t require that the witnesses sign in each other’s presence, nor does it require that they sign in the testator’s presence. However, the testator must sign or acknowledge his/her signature in the presence of the witnesses.
Bottom line, in New York, if one wants to amend their Will without drastically altering its overall premise, the most efficient way to go about doing this is to execute a Codicil. When doing so, be sure to follow the proper steps and procedure or it will be invalid and the original executed Will will take precedent without having your intended amendments included therein.