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Do you need a new will or a codicil?

You made a will last year. Now you want to update it and make some changes. Do you need to make a completely new will?

You may, but another option is to use a codicil. This official document can essentially amend the legal plan you already have in place. It leaves most of the will untouched but can lay out which specific changes you want to make.

How do you know which one to use? Technically, you can do either. There aren't rules about using one or the other. As a rule of thumb, though, a codicil is more for minor, simple changes. If you want to make numerous changes or major changes -- or both -- then it's probably time to just draft a new will.

For instance, maybe you were going to pass your business on to your heirs, but now you sold the company. You're going to invest the money and leave them the investments. That's a massive and complex change with much to consider, so you probably want a new will.

On the other hand, maybe you just wrote your daughter's maiden name into the will. She just got married last month, and you want to update the will to reflect her new last name. You can probably use a codicil for such a minor alteration.

Whenever you are considering changing your estate plan, it's important to think carefully about exactly what the change is going to mean for your family. Make sure you take the time to really look into all of the legal options you have.

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