How to Revoke a Will?

There are a number of reasons that revoking a will may be possible.  Life changes like a new child, marriage or a divorce may change how you wish to divide your property upon your death.  While the purpose behind changing a will vary, it is important that you accurately reflect your present wishes in your will.

In a majority of states, having a will revoked is fairly straightforward.  Typically, a will may be revoked by (1) creating a new will, (2) destroying the old will or (3) changing an existing will.  Sometimes, if a person gives away all property and assets prior to passing away, this may have the same effect as revoking a will (this may be subject to estate tax penalties).

Destroy the Old Will

Commonly, a will is revoked by simply destroying it.  It can be burned, torn, or shredded, so long as the intent is to destroy the will.  This can be done by the testator or by someone else at the testator’s request, and in his or her presence.

Each state has its own definition on how a will may properly be revoked.  States differ on whether revocation may be done through destruction by the testator.  However, this often will not include any handwritten marks in the margins of a will, or if a testator draws an “X” through particular pages of a will.   Because requirements differ, a court may deem a will improperly destroyed and treat the will as if it has not been changed.

Make a New Will

A will may also be revoked by simply creating a new one. A new will must be properly executed and must also reflect language expressing your desire to revoke all prior wills, such as “I hereby revoke any and all old Wills that I have previously made.”

Make Changes to an Existing Will

A will may be revoked by a testator if he or she makes changes to part of an existing will.  A codicil, or newly-amended will, will have the same effect as creating a new will due to its ability to change key features of an existing will (including property designations and new beneficiaries).

Get Legal Help

It is wise to speak to an experienced estate-planning attorney in your state if you need help revoking a will.  An attorney can ensure that your intentions are clearly stated and that a will is properly revoked.

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