You’ve met with attorneys, considered your options, and carefully drawn up and executed a will. Then, something unexpected happens. Maybe it’s a divorce or a death, or maybe you gain or lose significant assets. If your will isn’t accurate anymore, what are your options?
Revocation or Amendment?
The most important question to start with is whether you are sure you want to revoke your will, or whether you just want to amend it. You can revoke a will partially or completely. In a partial revocation, part of the original will, or an amendment to it (called a codicil), is revoked, but other parts of the will are not. In a complete revocation, the entire original will or codicil to it is revoked.
On the other hand, an amendment to a will, called a codicil, supplements a will by altering, amending, or modifying it rather than replacing it. Codicils republish an existing will on the date they are executed, so an existing will remains valid, but incorporates the codicil’s changes.
Executing a Codicil
If you decide you want to amend the will by codicil, the process is relatively straightforward. Codicils must be executed with the same formalities as a will, which generally requires the will to be in a typed writing signed by the testator with two or more witnesses. Certain wills, called holographic wills, are wills written in handwriting that must be signed and dated by the testator and do not require any witnesses. So, depending on the type of will you have, typed or handwritten, you can execute an effective codicil by following the same protocol as you would for a will.
Executing a Revocation
If you decide you want to revoke your will, you first need to decide if you want to revoke all or simply portions of it. Let’s say you decide you only want to revoke all codicils you’ve made to your will since the original drafting; that would be a partial revocation, and would revive your original will. A complete revocation, on the other hand, invalidates an existing will and any codicils which have attached.
Revocation generally occurs when the will document is destroyed. Destruction includes burning, tearing, shredding, or otherwise destroying the will. You can have a third party revoke your will by destruction if it’s done at your direction and in your presence. Once you completely revoke your will, it’s important to make sure that you have a new will to replace it, otherwise, there is no guarantee that your assets will be distributed the way you want after you die.
A revocation can occur at any time prior to your death, however, if you leave a writing or another instrument that expressly or impliedly revokes your will, that may also suffice to revoke it after your death. An oral revocation of a will is not enough to revoke it.
Questions About Revoking Your Will?
Your will is your legacy, and it’s important it only contain the provisions you want. Do not take matters into your own hands to amend or revoke your will. Instead, contact M&A Law Firm, PC, to discuss your options. Our experienced estate planning attorneys are ready to help ensure your will meets your needs and takes care of your loved ones after you die.