How to Cancel a Will
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How to Cancel a Will
Understanding how to cancel a will is important if you wish to have your estate administered correctly. Generally speaking, a will can be cancelled (revoked) in three different ways. If you need to cancel your will, any of these three methods will effectively cancel your will:
- Through Writing: Revocation of a will may be accomplished through a writing that clearly expresses the person’s desire to cancel it. This is usually done when another will is created in lieu of the old one - the new will should contain a statement that the old will is being cancelled by the new one.
- By a Physical Act: Certain acts can serve to legally cancel a will. Examples of these are where the creator of the will destroys, tears, burns, or otherwise physically destroys the will document. For the cancellation to be valid, the owner of the will must also intend that the act will cancel the will. Another person may perform the destroying act, but the act must be done in the presence of, and under the direction of the will owner.
- By Operation of Law: By law, certain events and occurrences can cause a will to be cancelled. These may include circumstances involving divorce, marriage, and the birth of children, (especially where family members were omitted in the will).
Thus, one of the main aspects of canceling a will is the creator’s intention to cancel it. If the creator doesn’t express their intent to cancel a will, then subsequent actions are likely not going to have the legal effect of canceling it.
When Should a Will Be Cancelled?
An important part of understanding how to cancel a will is knowing when it should be cancelled. There are major events that can arise in which you might want to consider canceling your will. These include:
- The birth or death of immediate relatives, family members, or close friends
- Acquiring valuable property, or a unique item of property that can’t be replaced
- Acquiring large sums of money
- Acquiring significant amounts of debt
- Changes to one’s marital status
- Extended or permanent relocations to a different country
In general, you may wish to cancel your old will and create a new one if you believe that life changes may be affecting the majority of your old will provisions. Oftentimes it’s more convenient to simply create a new will rather than try to make changes or amendments to the old one. This will result in a clearer will document that is easier to understand. The clearer your will is, the less chance there is for a will contest to arise in the future.
Should I Cancel My Will If I Have a Will Dispute?
It isn’t always necessary to cancel your will simply because you have encountered a dispute over your will. Besides canceling a will, one way to achieve your aims is to modify your will. This can be done with respect to a single provision or only a few provisions, thus leaving the majority of your will intact.
Modifying a will may be favorable if the dispute involves only one or a few beneficiaries, or if it only involves one item of property. This can be done by adding an amendment to your will known as a codicil. The codicil should specifically list the changes to be made to your will, along with the people who will be affected by the change. Codicils need to be executed with the same legal formalities as a will (such as being signed, witnessed, etc.)
Again, you don’t want to have too many amendments attached to your will. If you need to make major changes to your will, it might be better to cancel the old one and create a new one. Also, newer electronic forms make it much easier to simply create a new will. You may wish to consult with a lawyer for advice on whether to add an amendment or make an entirely new will.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
It’s important to understand how to cancel a will. If you have two different versions of a will, it may become difficult to determine what your intentions are. You may wish to hire an experienced estate planning lawyer for assistance when dealing with wills. Your attorney can provide you with advice on how to cancel a will, and can help you with the various will requirements. More importantly, a lawyer can represent you in court if you or your loved ones have a dispute over a will.
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Last Modified: 05-29-2014 03:33 PM PDT
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