When & How to Revoke Your Last Will & Testament

Revoking Your Will

It’s sometimes necessary to revoke a Will because of an unexpected life change or event. A revocation is simply a legal term to indicate that one has elected to destroy their Will. In Pennsylvania, much like in other states, you can revoke or destroy your Will in several ways. The easiest ways are simply to tear it up burn it, or put it through the nearest paper shredder. Any of these methods will obvious destroy the original document but there may be copies left in various places such as a safe deposit box, a drawer inside a china closet, a shoe box, or simply a folder marked “estate documents” left amongst papers in your home. If you don’t destroy those copies, there is a possibility that after you die your heirs will assume that the original was simply lost and that all of your previous intentions remain the same despite your clear intent to revoke them. Even if you did destroy your Will in the presence of others, there are a number of problems which could develop after your death and a copy of your Will could cause the court to find that you didn’t actually make a clear revocation.

A second way to revoke your Will is to sign a revocation statement which is simply a document that indicates your intent to formally revoke your Will. If you decide to choose this method it’s very important that you sign the document before a Notary Public along with two witnesses. The Notary should verify your signature as well as those of your witnesses to avoid any misunderstanding or confusion in the event that one of your heirs (now possible former heirs) should challenge the revocation document. In the event of a challenge, the notary and the witnesses may be called to testify to the voluntariness of your actions or the lack of duress, force, or some other compulsion surrounding them. While a revocation is much more formal than simply tearing up the original, it can still create confusion for your survivors if you don’t leave another Will to replace it.

The final and probably the most advised way to revoke your Will is to create a new one. While creating a new document will add an additional expense, it will provide your survivors with guidance.  It will also automatically revoke your previous Will. The first statement of a Will should clearly indicate that the document revokes all previous Wills and codicils. Our law firm advises clients to make a new Will even if they are making minor changes to the old one; this avoids any confusion or misunderstanding.

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