A codicil to a will is an amendment which varies the terms of an existing will. This amendment normally takes place in the context where a person want to change the assignment of property interests to other people. The existence of this type of a facility in the law is a reflection of the deeper principles and general beliefs about the nature of succession law and property in our western legal system. In general, capitalist societies commodify objects which can then be sold or owned. Presently, it is not possible to own people although historically the institution of slavery in Europe, Rome and the United States was implicity an accepted norm. At the other extreme, communist societies rejected the notion of private property although it was still possible to have some personal possessions such as clothes and jewellry.

It is possible to view the ability to pass on property at the time of someone’s death as a right which is inherent to the nature of property ownership. It is also possible to argue that children have a right to inherit, which is separate from the right to pass on property. At a philosophical level, John Locke argued that the right of ownership of the land came from the mixing of one’s labour with the soil. His theory was that the right to property emerged from labour to the exclusion of all other right including the right to succession or ownership of property. Immanuel Kant did not share the English speaking philosophical tradition but he did recognise the right to inherit the property of one forebears as part of the structure of a civilised society although in his view this right could be curtailed or regulated by the state. Another philosophical perspective on the nature of succession rights and property comes from Jeremy Bentham who was what is known as a utilitarian philosopher meaning that he believed that laws should aim to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. He regarding the power of testation essentially as a parenting tool which could be used to reward dutiful and meritorious conduct and the repression of vice and therefore serve to result in the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people in society.

Later the philosopher John Stuart Mill expressed his views about succession to property which included the distinction between the right bequest and the right to inherit. He thought that ultimately the right to property came from his ability to produce it or what it could be traded for in a fair market. He reasoned that no one should be able to inherit more than a modest amount because this would interfere with his incentive to work. The creation of a codicil to a will which allows that amendment of property interests bequeathed in a will is a right which stems from a variety of philosophical ideas.