Fireside Reading with a Side of Estate Planning

After creating a will, circumstances may emerge that prompt a desire to change various aspects of the document. Divorces, new marriages, additional children, familial disagreements and shifting allegiances to charities can each impact a will. Adding a codicil is a way to amend the document without creating an entirely new document.  A codicil is a supplement to your will which changes, revokes or adds a new provision.  Yet, it is not necessarily easier to make a codicil than it would be to create a new will.  The same formalities are required for both, including the presence of witnesses.  The codicil becomes a part of the original will, and the codicils along with the will make up one complete document.

As it becomes easier to prepare and change a will, codicils are losing their original appeal. With changes now made easily by computer, a new will is a simple task. Because the same number of witnesses are needed to be present at the signing of both a will and a codicil, the time and effort spent is generally the same for both tasks.

While codicils are becoming less frequently used in the reality of estate planning, fiction uses them for its own purposes in Nancy Thayer’s 2013 novel, Island Girls.

When Rory Randall dies, his will reveals a last-minute codicil.  If his three daughters (all from different marriages) want to sell and split the proceeds from his Nantucket beach house, they must spend one last summer there together.  This plot is reminiscent of James Gandolfini’s recent real-life will stipulation that his two children from different marriages retain joint ownership of his home in Italy until they are 25.

In Thayer’s novel, the plot is abundantly dramatic; the three sisters have bitter, problematic relationships with each other, and they also have their own individual problems to contend with.  The codicil to Randall’s will makes for 320 pages of drama for his daughters, and when their respective mothers show up, readers get a bonus soapy take on the complications of estate planning among blended families.

So, as fall takes hold, indulge in a little wishful beach reading with a side of estate planning. And, if Island Girls has you thinking of your own will, let us know. Whether it’s a simple will or a more complex estate plan, Fields and Dennis can help.