REVOKING A WILL

by Charlene Quincey on August 24, 2009

in Estate Planning, Resources


A testator may fully revoke or partially revoke their Will anytime before death. Revoking a Will is not as simple as stating that your Will no longer represents your wishes or telling your friend Mary that you no longer wish to leave her your house as per your Will. Instead, certain actions must be taken in order for your Will to be fully or partially revoked. Below is an overview of some of the ways your Will may be revoked or partially revoked.

Definitions:

  1. Beneficiary: Person or organization benefiting under a will
  2. Codicil: A properly executed change or addition to an existing will
  3. Probate: The granting of the right to administer a will
  4. Revoke: To annul by recalling or taking back
  5. Revive: To restore the validity or effectiveness of
  6. Testator: One who has made a testament or will

1. Make a new Will! (RCW 11.12.040 1 (a))
Individuals are only allowed to have one Will. Upon death only one Will goes to probate. If you have two Wills, in most circumstances, the second Will or newest Will will go to probate. Therefore if you want to revoke your existing Will one of the easiest ways to do so is to create a new one! To ensure there is no confusion about your wishes however, it’s always advisable to tear up your old will so that the only Will that exists is the new one!

2. Destroy it! (RCW 11.12.040 1(b))
Burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating or destroying your will with the intent to destroy it will successfully revoke the Will. In most cases, individuals tear or destroy their Will after they have prepared a new one that better expresses their wishes. If you choose however not to make a new Will, you may still destroy your current Will by any of the above methods. In this case, you will be left without a Will to go to probate.
*Note: Revocation of a will in its entirety revokes its codicils, unless revocation of a codicil would be contrary to the testator’s intent. (RCW 11.12.040 2)

3. Divorce, Annulment or Break-up? (RCW 11.12.051)
If after making your Will you get divorced or your domestic partnership comes to an end, all the provisions you made in your Will for your spouse or partner are revoked, unless of course, your Will states otherwise ie. “even if we divorce I would like Sally to have the house” Because of this provision it would be prudent to update your Will upon divorce or separation, especially if it is your wish to provide for your ex spouse or  ex partner in your Will.

4. One or more Children NOT named in Will. (RCW 11.12.091)
If you fail to name or provide for one of your children, usually this happens when you make your Will and then subsequently adopt or have another child, the ‘omitted’ child will take under the Will even though they were not named. However, if you intentionally omitted a child (disinherited them) and explicitly stated this in your Will or by other clear and convincing evidence, then the child will NOT become a beneficiary.

5. Remarried? (RCW 11.12.095)
If your Will fails to name or provide for a spouse or domestic partner whom you coupled with after you wrote your Will, and this individual survives you, the spouse or partner will receive a portion of your estate unless of course you explicitly state that they are not a beneficiary in your Will or by other clear and convincing evidence that they are not to take under your Will.

This list is not exhaustive and does not constitute legal advice. It is purely for your information. If you want to learn more about revoking a Will, or feel as though one of these situations may apply to you and you are concerned whether your Will fully expresses your true wishes, contact an attorney to discuss your specific situation.

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