Codicil to a Will

I had a client visit for a consultation.

They had created a will with a firm of solicitors who have now closed. The client wants to remove certain beneficiaries and replace them.

Would a codicil be the right document to use and would anyone know how they are usually worded.

I look forward to the responses.

Many years ago when I started my articles I was taught never to do codicils. It was explained to me that using a codicil to replace beneficiaries or reduce their entitlement was particularly unwise as it paved the way for a challenge. Over the years, I have concluded that the advice was sound. In these increasingly litigious times I’d say the risks were greater than ever. Just simply redo the will and save yourself the potential for trouble further down the line.






Thank you so much, that makes things clear.

I have made Codicils to change Executor(s) or to add legacies but, as Joyce said, I would never use a Codicil to remove a beneficiary or to reduce a beneficiary’s entitlement. As a Codicil is proved with the Will, it will be apparent for all to see that the testator changed his/her mind about beneficiaries. Even apart from the litigious element, it can be very upsetting for somebody to know that the testator decided to eliminate or reduce that beneficiary’s entitlement.

Cliona O’Tuama


I always remember an unfortunate experience which I had when working for a Bank which was appointed executor of a Will which had been drawn up by the deceased solicitors who had also drawn up a codicil revoking and adding some pecuniary legacies and bequests. The family insisted that I read out the testamentary provisions at the “wake”, to which I reluctantly agreed. I therefore had to start with the codicil. Unbeknown to me, the near family had asked some of the friends who they thought were going to be beneficiaries to join the meeting. As I read out the codicil I could hear people saying “I wonder what I did wrong that she’s cancelled my Legacy/bequest“. Needless to say the “wake” became an even less happier event for some! So yes I agree that codicils should not be used if a legacy/ bequest to a beneficiary is to be revoked.

Patrick Moroney

I found that a further issue was the cost - ie that some clients felt instinctively that a short/simple change to a will should be cheaper than making a new will - despite my pointing out that usually it had to be “tied in” to the existing will which caused further complications not less eg that the codicil normally revives the existing will - albeit that one or more legatees may have died in the interim …
However the thread reminds me of a [possibly apocryphal] tale concerning a wealthy but profoundly deaf client whose doctor found a revolutionary new treatment. At his 3 month check-up the doctor enquired what his family thought of the wonderful improvement, to be told " I haven’t told them yet - but I’ve changed my will five times"!


I agree: much simpler just to do a completely fresh will.

See also the recent case of Barrett v Hammond. The will divided the estate into 52 parts (with various family members each getting 6 parts and various charities getting 2 parts). The codicil replaced two family members (total 12 parts) with two charities (total 4 parts) so there was a partial intestacy.

I agree with the advice to do a new will - all the reasons given above are very sound. Also, as the codicil re-publishes the will (which you did not draft) might you taking on professional liability for the original will by drafting the codicil? All of a sudden the job is not (or should not be) particularly quick or cheap.