How To Revoke A Will

Revoke A Will: How To Cancel A Will

Most people desire to revoke a will because circumstances in their life have changed. Maybe they get married or divorced, have a kid or two, or their financial situation changes. Regardless of what the reason is they should take reassurance in the fact that they can alter their will fairly easily. There are a number of ways to revoke a will in placement of a new will. In fact, the best way to revoke a will is to create a newer up to date will and make it obvious that the new will is intended to be their true will.  A will is generally revoked by operation of law, by creating a subsequent instrument (such as a codicil or a new will), through physical act, or if it is destroyed or lost.

Revoke A Will: Operation of Law

Becoming married after creating a will does not have an impact on an earlier will and the new spouse will only take an intestate share as an omitted spouse unless a new will is made, a codicil is included, the omission was intentional, or the will was made in contemplation of marriage. However, a divorce decree will revoke the provisions of the former spouse if their was a spouse before that was supposed to benefit from the will.

Revoke A Will: Subsequent Instrument

All or part of the will may be revoked in writing by a new document. But if the new document does not outright revoke the will, both wills will be valid. The newer will however, will supersede the former will if there are any inconsistencies between them.

Revoke A Will: Physical Act

Any burning, tearing, canceling, or obliterating a material portion of the will with the intent to revoke will show the court that an individual is attempting to revoke a will. The intent must be present, accidents do not suffice.

Presumptions as to Revocation:

A court will presume a testator attempted to revoke their will in certain situations:

  • If the testator had it last and up until they died, but it was found in disrepair after testators death, the courts hold that the testator did the damage with intent to revoke.
  • If testator had it last, but it was not found after they died, courts hold the testator revoked it.
  • If a 3rd person had it last or a person who may be impacted by what the will says had it last,  no presumption of revocation arises.
  • A lost or destroyed will may be admitted to if it was validly executed and the contents to the will are authentic.

Reviving a revoked will:

A will once revoked is not revived when the subsequent will is itself revoked unless the earlier will is re-executed or republished by a validly executed codicil. In most states a revoked will is presumptively revived unless it is shown by the testators statements or other evidence that she did not intend to revive the earlier will. Basically once you revoke your first will, you must re-execute it to revive it or show intent to do so. An revocations based on seduction, inducement, mistake of law, or of large gift discrepancies will be considered void.

The biggest takeaways are that revocation of a will is possible by:

  • Writing void on your will in addition to crossing out language in a will
  • Revoking through a proxy (having another destroy it for you if you were present when it happened)
  • Physically destroying a will
  • Making a new will

Revoke A Will Additional Information

  • Check out the ABA’s information regarding wills here.
  • Nolo has a similar article.
  • If you want to know what happens if you die without a will feel free to check out our article on the topic here.
  • If you want information regarding how to create a will check out our article on how to do so! 
, , , ,