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How To Legally Revoke A Will

One cause of will contests is the existence of more than one will. At first blush, having multiple wills seems improbable, but it can happen more easily than you would think. Here are two scenarios:

1. A couple is expecting the birth of their first child. In the rush to prepare for the baby’s arrival, they hire an attorney who properly executes a will. Decades pass and during that time, the couple divorces. While in her 60s, one of the spouses decides she needs a will. She has forgotten the will from 30 years ago. The new will, which she writes herself after reading online information, is substantially different than the old will. The new will is not dated and makes no reference to the prior will.

2. A man, 20 years after the creation of his will, makes changes to his will by drawing an "X" over some of the pages.

In both scenarios, the potential for confusion and disputes exists. Did the individuals revoke their wills? How would family members and/or beneficiaries view the wills? How would a probate judge construe the testators' intentions?

When creating a new will, it is crucial to legally revoke prior wills. Below are methods for accomplishing that.

A word of caution: revocation of a will does not seem difficult, in theory. Mistakes happen, however, when people do not know the particulars of probate and estate law. To ensure your existing will is legally revoked, contact an experienced probate litigation attorney.

Destroy The Old Will

States have laws that explain how to destroy a will. Ohio law says a will can be destroyed by "tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying it with the intention of revoking it."

Common methods of "obliterating" and "destroying" include burning and shredding. 

Write A New Will

One of the simplest ways to revoke a will is to create a property executed new will. The new will should include language that clearly states your intent to revoke prior wills. 

Even with a properly executed new will, it is a good idea to destroy the old will, to eliminate the possibility of confusion after your passing.

Make Changes To The Existing Will

You can revoke a will by making changes to an existing will. Changes to wills are called codicils. In essence, codicils create a new will when important aspects of an existing will are changed.

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