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How do I revoke a will?

It is common knowledge at this point that everyone should have a will, but simply having a will is not always enough to properly express your wishes and protect your estate. If your will no longer suits your needs, or if you have created more than one will and wish to eliminate confusion for your loved ones, it is often necessary to revoke an existing will. There a number of ways to accomplish this, depending on your circumstances.

Because a will is necessarily a physical object, you can usually revoke a will by physically destroying it. This might mean you personally destroy the will by burning or tearing it, or another person could also destroy it at your direction in your presence. Once completely destroyed, the will no longer holds authority. If you only partially destroy a will, a court may still honor it.

You can also revoke a will by properly creating a new will. In order for this to be effective, you should include very specific language detailing that the new will supersedes the old will and revokes its authority. Although this is usually enough to legally revoke the will, it is still useful to destroy older iterations to avoid confusion on the part of your loved ones.

It is also possible to amend an existing will instead of destroying it completely. Amending an existing will is very common if a person's estate changes significantly, or if a person gains or loses beneficiaries in death or divorce.

If you have will that no longer serves your needs, you can consult with an experienced estate planning attorney about revoking or amending it to ensure that all your wishes are clearly known and recognized. There is no use having a will if doesn't actually make your wishes known and carry the authority to enforce them.

Source: Findlaw, "How to Revoke a Will," accessed Aug. 18, 2017

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