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Revoking Your Will

The Revoke sign in red

If you’ve made the responsible decision to create a will, there may come a time when that will no longer accurately represents your wishes for how your resources should be distributed at your death. In order to prevent your estate from passing to heirs you no longer wish to provide a gift to, you’ll need to cancel, or revoke, your will according to New York State law. Learn more below about why you might want to revoke a will and how to do so in a legally-recognized way.

When might you need to revoke a will?

Wills and estate plans are representations of who and what you value. These relationships and values can change over time for countless reasons. For example, your spouse might become highly financially successful, obviating the need for you to provide a large inheritance for them in your will. In contrast, a loved one may become disabled, motivating you to provide a larger gift for them than you’d originally planned. Your relationship with a child or family member may become strained, or you may no longer support the work being done by a charity or school for which you’d provided a gift in your will.

How to legally revoke or change a will

There are three ways that New York residents can legally change or revoke their will:

  • Physical destruction: if you burn, tear, mutilate, obliterate, cut, or otherwise destroy your original will, then courts will consider you to have revoked what was written in the will. That said, revoking a will in this manner when loved ones or family members knew you had created a will often results in interested individuals challenging the revocation.
  • Create a codicil: Scratching out a portion of your will or handwriting an additional gift will not be an effective way to modify or add a section to your will. A codicil is an additional paragraph that can be added to a will which adds an additional gift, revokes a gift made earlier in the will, or both. To be effective, a codicil must be typewritten, signed and witnessed in the same manner as the will itself. Codicils can sometimes lead to challenges to a will if the codicils are ambiguous; often, the person whose gift was negatively impacted by the change will be motivated to challenge the validity of the codicil.
  • Create a new will: Most attorneys would agree that the most effective way to revoke or change a will is by creating a new will entirely. The new will should clearly state that it supersedes all previous versions, and it should be kept in a safe place and held by a third party.

If you would like help creating or modifying an estate plan from a skilled and experienced New York attorney, contact the Poughkeepsie estate planning lawyers at Van DeWater & Van DeWater for a consultation, at 845-243-5214.

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