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How to Revoke a Will

There are several situations where revoking a will may be feasible. For instance, life changes – such as marriage, divorce, and a new baby – may change how you wish to dispose of your property upon death. While the reasons for changing a will may vary, it is important to know how to reflect your current intentions in your will.

In most states, revoking a will is pretty straightforward. Generally, you can revoke a will by (1) destroying the old will, (2) creating a new will or (3) making changes to an existing will. In some circumstances, simply giving away all or your property and assets before you die can have the effect of revoking a will (subject to estate tax penalties).

Destroy the Old Will

A common way to revoke a will is to utterly destroy it. You can burn it, tear it, or shred it to pieces, so long as you intend to destroy the will. This applies to whether you actually destroy it, or whether someone else destroys it, at your request, and in your presence.

Again, state statutes will define how a will may be revoked. Some states allow revocation by destruction when the testator “tears, cancels, obliterates, or destroys the will with the intention of revoking it.” This often does not include handwritten marks in the margins of a will, or where, for example, a testator draws an “X” through some of the pages of a will. Thus, a court may treat an improperly destroyed will as if the will had not been changed.

Make a New Will

Perhaps one of the easiest ways you can revoke a will by simply creating a new will. The new will should be properly executed and reflect language that states 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 testator can revoke a will by making changes to parts of an existing will. The newly-amended will, now called a “codicil”, has the effect of creating a new will because it can change key aspects of an existing will, including new beneficiaries and property designations.

Get Legal Help

If you need help understanding how to revoke a will in your state, it may be wise to speak with an estate planning attorney in your area. Often an attorney can advise you on the proper ways to revoke a will, and make sure your intentions are clear so as to avoid any confusion that may result from a failed revocation attempt.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified estate planning attorney to help you ensure
that your loved ones are cared for and your wishes are honored.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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