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Revoking a Will--It May Be Easier than You Think

By Neetal Parekh | Last updated on

Writing a will sounds like a major undertaking.  In reality, wills can be simple or complex as related to the amount of assets and instructions for distribution.  But even if you are on top of it and have valid written will, there's a chance that at some point you may want to revoke it.  Marriages can come in and out of your life, parental and childrens needs can change, your own financial situation could change, and you may identify new or different charitable causes you want to donate to.

Will revocation is based on state law.  So before you take any drastic measures, it is a good idea to contact an estate planning attorney about the process and acceptable methods of revocation. The last last thing you would want is to destroy a will, with intent to revoke, only to have another copy of it resurface later, possibly creating a question of which will is valid.

The basic requirements for revoking a will generally include: 1) having the intent to revoke the will, along with a capacity to revoke; and 2) taking an action sufficient revoke the will (often such as physically destroying it or marking it up to indicate it is not valid).  Just wanting to revoke a will is usually not enough, the state will likely require some definitive action to reflect your intent.  But the overall process is straightforward, and doesn't generally require a court procedure.

There are also other ways a will can be revoked:

  • You can include a clause in a new will that will revokes any prior wills
  • A will may also be revoked by operation of law.  Say for example, a subsequent edition of the will contradicted an earlier version of the will.  A court may find the earlier version to be revoked by operation of law.
  • And, it's good to know that revoking one copy of a will revokes all executed copies of the will.

Writing a will can be one of the most important things you do for your loved ones.  But even after it is drafted in accordance with the law, it is not unchangeable.  And fortunately, the law provides for that.

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