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A codicil is a
testamentary A testator () is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relation ...
or supplementary document similar but not necessarily identical to a
will Will may refer to: Common meanings * Will and testament A will or testament is a legal document that expresses a person's ( testator) wishes as to how their property (estate (law), estate) is to be distributed after their death and as to which ...
. In some
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
s, it may serve to amend, rather than replace, a previously executed will. In others, it may serve as an alternative to a will. In still others, there is no recognized distinction between a codicil and a will.


Etymology

Latin codicillus meaning a short additional
text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory), any object that can be read, including: **Religious text, a writing that a religious tradition considers to be sacred **Text, a verse or passage from scripture used in expository preaching ...
or a small writing tablet. The diminutive of
codex The codex (plural codices ()) was the historical ancestor of the modern book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" ...

codex
see also
code In communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', mean ...

code


Origins

The concept of a testamentary document as similar to but distinct from a will originated in
Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
. In the pre-classical period, a testator was required to nominate an heir in order for his will to be valid (''heredis institutio''). Failure to nominate an heir or failure to observe the proper formalities for nomination of an heir resulted in an estate divided pursuant to the rules of intestacy. However, a testator was also able to institute a ''
fideicommissumA ''fideicommissum'' is a type of bequest in which the beneficiary is encumbered to convey parts of the decedent's estate to someone else. For example, if a father leaves the family house to his firstborn, on condition that she will it to her first c ...
'', a more flexible and less formal indication of the testator's intent, which could have the effect of transferring part or all of his estate after death, although with fewer rights to the beneficiary than those of a nominated heir. A ''codicillus'' (diminutive of ''
codex The codex (plural codices ()) was the historical ancestor of the modern book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" ...

codex
'') was a written
document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of nonfiction, non-fictional, as well as fictional, content. The word originates from the Latin ''Documentum'', whic ...

document
subject to fewer formal requirements than a will (''testamentum'') that, in its initial use, could supplement or amend an existing will, provided that the codicil was specified, i. e. confirmed, in the will. However, if the will did not confirm the codicil, all provisions in the codicil were considered ''fideicommissa''. Furthermore, a will that did not nominate an heir could be considered a codicil. Thus, when a testator did not nominate an heir, his will would be considered a codicil and his bequests would become ''fideicommissa''. This "opened a way to save certain dispositions in a will which was invalid due to some formal or substantive defect": if a testator failed or chose not to nominate an heir, an estate would pass to heirs pursuant to rules of intestacy, but those heirs would be bound by the ''fideicommissa'' in the codicil. By the time of the ''
Codex Justinianus The Code of Justinian ( la, Codex Justinianus, or ) is one part of the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'', the codification of Roman law ordered early in the 6th century CE by Justinian I, who was an Byzantine Empire, Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperor in Co ...
'', the formal requirements for wills had relaxed, while requirements for codicils had become more stringent. "There was thus little difference between the formalities for a will and for a codicil", and an invalid will, when for example, no heir had been nominated, could often be validated as a codicil. It is acknowledged that classical Roman inheritance law was "highly complicated and to a large extent perplexedly entangled".


Modern development

The codicil remained a distinct entity to a will (testament) to varying degrees throughout the Roman-influenced legal world. The concept of ''heredis institutio'' (a will requires an heir) was part of the ''
jus commune ''Jus commune'' or ''ius commune'' is Latin for "common law" in certain jurisdictions. It is often used by Civil law (legal system), civil law jurists to refer to those aspects of the civil law system's invariant legal principles, sometimes called ...
'' up until modern times.Klein et al. c. 2 p. 33. In the United States, a codicil is a document that changes an existing will. Amendments made by a codicil may alter, explain, add to, subtract from, or confirm – and otherwise amend a will in any other way, minor or major, short of complete revocation. It is subject to the same formal requirements as a will.


References

{{Authority control Wills and trusts Legal documents