Ways of Revoking a Legal Will

Revocation of a legal Will in simpler words means that it is cancelled. There are several ways in which you can revoke a legal Will. The W...

Revocation of a legal Will in simpler words means that it is cancelled. There are several ways in which you can revoke a legal Will. The Will can be revoked either voluntarily or by operation of the law. A legal Will is going to remain valid for an unlimited time period until it is revoked. The Will can be revoked by the following ways:


1: Making a New Will
An old Will is revoked by a new Will only when the new provisions and law are inconsistent with it. However, any confusion can motivate a ‘losing beneficiary’ to legally challenge the new Will. Remember, this is entirely a legal action. Hence, while drafting a new Will it is always advisable to state that this new Will revokes all the previous ones. In reality, if the mentioned executors believe to possess your latest Will, they are unlikely to hunt around for the previous one which may further complicate your estate. The basic law will be implied no matter what you decide to do with your older Will or where it is stored. Remember, the most recent Will that you have composed (and the one which you have signed in presence of two witnesses) will make all the older ones invalid.

2: Marriage
When you decide to marry or rather remarry, your previously crafted Will is automatically revoked. In such a situation, if you do not craft a new Will and happen to die (without having a legal Will in place), your spouse is most likely to inherit everything you own. Also, you can craft a Will in anticipation of marriage, which is likely to take effect when you get married. Hence, if the new Will has words which make it clear that it is in contemplation of marriage to a named person, the Will is not revoked automatically when you do marry.

3: Destruction of an Old Will
If at any given situation, you willingly destroy your own Will, then it is known to be revoked. But if you destroy your Will partially and your executors are unaware of the fact that it was destroyed willingly, then they have the power to ask the Court to decide whether the Will is valid or not. If your executors and beneficiaries think the destruction of the Will was an accident (in case of house fire or natural calamity), then they may proceed in an application to the Court to provide a copy of that Will.

4: Editing Your Will Once You Have Signed It
Once your final Will is crafted, make sure that you do not make any alterations to it in any way. You cannot cross out portions or add any extra words or blocks of text to your final Will. Neither can you attach any extra pages with pins, staples or clips to your existing Will. If you wish to alter your existing Will, then you simply need to prepare a new document and execute it as your new Will and then destroy the previous one and all the copies of it.

So, in what cases you should craft a new Will?
Below we have mentioned few events that would ordinarily require you to make changes to your existing Will:
  • In case you get married (including registration of a civil partnership) or getting a divorce.
  • The birth, death or adoption of any children
  • In case of marriage, divorce or separation of any of your beneficiaries
  • To add or makes changes in the guardians for your children
  • Your financial position changes which makes your older Will no longer viable
  • Due to the changes in the tax law, which changes the effects on your older Will
  • You willingly want to make changes in the beneficiaries or the gifts or the arrangements
  • One of your proposed executors die before you or you want to change them anyway
  • In case you are moving abroad
5: Divorce, Separation and Unmarried Partners
Termination of a civil partnership or divorce does not revoke a Will. Nonetheless, though your ex-spouse or civil partner is termed as a beneficiary in your Will, they will not continue to be one unless it is explicitly mentioned in the Will that they continue to be your beneficiary even after divorce or separation. The only consequence to this can be, your property would be divided in such a way that you did not initially intended. Also, it gives some beneficiaries a greater or lesser benefit than how you initially wanted it to leaving the property to a greater liability for inheritance tax. On the other hand, separation as such has no effect on the Will. If you happen to die having separated but have not rewritten the Will, then your spouse inherits your property as if they were living with you. If both you and your ex-spouse have found partners after separation, the new partner will inherit nothing while your ex-spouse (and their family) may benefit from it.

6: Foreign Wills
If you are revoking your existing Will by making a new one and including usual words such as revocation, then make sure you are excluding any foreign Will in your revocation. If at all you do not, then the arrangement you have had in mind for your foreign property may not be effective at all.

7: Changes in Name or Address
It is by law essential to update the names and addresses of all the beneficiaries every time you write a Will. Now, even if these details happen to be wrong when you die, your Will is going to be perfectly valid and the listed executors will give effect to your wishes provided each beneficiary can be identified (no matter where they are located).

8: Review your Will Regularly
According to the Law Society, it is recommended to review your Will in every five years. We suggest you to do the same and do it more often, perhaps every year and whenever your financial circumstances change.

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