Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 3, 2020

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As long as you are still alive and considered mentally competent, you are as free to change your will as you were to make it. There are certain procedures to changing a will that must be followed if you want to accurately and successfully revoke a will in favor of a new one.  In order to change your will you must make your new wishes clear in a new document, and properly revoke a will that does not reflect your intentions.

Revocation Procedure

The law specifies that in order to revoke a will, it must be utterly destroyed. Simply drawing an X across the will and writing “revoked” will not suffice. The acceptable methods by the majority of states include burning and shredding. In addition, if you gave copies of the will away to anyone else, you must call those people and request that they send you back those copies. Never leave your will’s destruction in the hands of someone else, as they may not destroy the will at all.

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Revocation Witnesses

In order to avoid confusion, it is always best to have two or more people witness you revoke a will. This ensures that if someone tries to contest your new will in court, they will be stopped by the two witnesses. Remember that the witnesses must be at least 18 years of age. Other than that, it can be anyone from your neighbor to two secretaries at your office.

Revocation in Your New Will

After you have successfully destroyed every remaining copy of your old will, you can begin drafting the new will. This will should also contain a provision that revokes the prior will. While this may sound like overkill, it will help your will avoid a contest in court. The phrasing in your new will should state: “I, (Your name), herewith revoke all previous wills and codicils.” If possible, you should also give the previous date of signing for the revoked will.

Getting Help

Proper revocation of a will is vital to ensuring your will does not remain tied up in probate court for years. If you want to change your will, consult with an estate planning attorney. If nothing else, they have plenty of office staff who can witness the revocation and the signing of the new will.