At the Moller Law Group we work hard to create a lasting relationship with clients. In Estate Planning, this means establishing a continuing relationship to help our clients at all stages of planning. Our goal is to avoid the typical Estate Planning situation where the law firm serves as a “document mill” and spits out documents that are bound in fancy folders and placed for years or decades on a shelf in a client’s home. Estate planning documents represent a snapshot of the client’s situation as it is at the moment the documents are signed. The problem is that our lives are constantly changing. Perhaps after drafting a will or trust we move to a new home or a new state. Maybe we sell the boat we were going to leave to a child. Maybe we are divorced or married after having drafted a will.
One common situation that we see at our practice involves adding or removing names to a will. Clients are often hesitant to approach an attorney when only such a minor change needs to be made. The perception is that the attorney will have to write an entire new will and the attorney will charge high fees to do so. However, if the change is in reality as simple as, for example, adding or removing a name, we will use a codicil to meet the client’s needs without drafting documents from scratch. This tool allows us to establish an ongoing relationship with the client that is characterized by client’s ability to approach us to make major or minor changes to documents as those changes occur in the client’s life.
A codicil can be described as an “amendment” to a will. We use this tool when the changes to be made to a will are relatively simple. A codicil typically refers to a specific article or section of a will that needs to be edited or changed. The new language is included in the codicil, and it is signed by the client and by two witnesses. A codicil can be as short as one page, or it could be several pages long. In addition to changing a specific section or article of the will, the codicil republishes the remainder of the will in its entirety.
Although a codicil is an important and relatively inexpensive tool that we can use to create an ongoing relationship with clients, we will also always review the documents and provide an honest opinion if we feel the document really does need to be rewritten. Sometimes people’s lives have changed so much that a complete rewriting of documents is needed. There are times when people move to Colorado from other states that have laws that are so different in Estate Planning that documents need to be rewritten to reflect Colorado law. It is best to spend a little money up front rather than a large sum of money later litigating mistakes that could have been addressed in documents, and we feel that we owe an honest opinion to our clients in this regard.
* This is not considered legal advice, and the legal system constantly changes. If you want current and accurate legal advice, please contact our office and arrange to speak with an attorney. 719-687-2328