There are several ways to change how you want to distribute property and money to your heir. One way is to fully revoke one will and rewrite a new one. To revoke a will you can:

  • Destroy it
  • Burn it,
  • Tear it up
  • Void the will by writing an attachment saying the current will is invalid

The Effect of Revoking a Will

Revoking a will means that it's no longer valid. When someone dies, the most recent unrevoked valid will controls how their property is divided. If they die with a revoked will and no new one, it's the same thing as dying without a will at all. At this point, the intestacy laws for that state become effective and property is distributed according to those rules.

Change Over Time May be Cause to Amend or Revoke a Will

Over the years, your circumstances change and it's always a good idea to review your will every few years to make sure the provisions stay current.

For example, suppose a will leaves a piece of property to a particular beneficiary. If the property was valuable when the testator made the will, the person probably intended to leave the beneficiary something of value. But after a couple of years, the value of the property goes down. If the will's creator doesn't revoke the will and draft a new one, the intent to leave the beneficiary something of value won't be fulfilled.

In addition to changing property values, a whole list of changes may happen. Stock go up and down, property is bought and sold, marital situation may change and children may be born and relatives currently in the will may die. Don't make a will and forget about it.

When to Revoke a Will

Changes in the law can also affect a will's validity.

If an old will is out of date and the testator's capacity (competency) to make a new will is in doubt, then there may be a problem creating a new will. The testator will need the advice of an attorney to determine whether a new will or amendment (i.e., codicil) should be attempted, or whether the old will should be retained, despite its defects.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I haven't had any major changes in my personal life, so why should I review my will? How often do I need to review it?
  • If I destroy my will, do I need to notify my beneficiaries that it has been destroyed? Will any problems arise if I don't tell them?
  • If someone doesn't have the mental capacity to make a new will, can they revoke an existing will by destroying it? Would destruction of the will amount to a valid revocation if someone was mentally impaired?