Does Signing a New Will Revoke Your Old One?

When your wishes change, you may want to sign a new will and revoke the old one. But you should know how to properly make your new will so that it has legal effect.

Revoking an Old Will

There are several different ways to revoke a will, one of which is making a new will that contains a sentence saying your old will is no longer valid. The other methods of revoking a will are:

  • Destroy the will document (shredding, burning, or tearing it up are acceptable)
  • Instruct someone else to destroy the document
  • Write a new document stating that you revoke your old will and have it properly witnessed
  • Write something like “I revoke this will” on your old will and sign it

People choose to revoke their wills for many different reasons. For example, your wishes about who receives your property might change, or you might have a major life event happen (marriage, divorce, etc.).

Keep in mind that if you do revoke your will without creating a new one, the court will divide your estate among your relatives according to the order of intestate succession. Usually that means spouse, children, and other close relatives receive your money and property.

Making a New Will that Revokes the Old One

When you sign a new will, it should include a specific sentence that states that this new will revokes your old will. It is helpful to include the date of the old will or otherwise describe it in the sentence. If a lawyer prepares your will, make sure he or she includes that sentence.

If your new will does not include that sentence for some reason, the court will most likely compare your old will and your new will. Any differences in the new will should take effect, disregarding what it says in the old will. 

Finally, you should know that it is often better to make a new will than make changes to your old will. You cannot simply write the changes on the document – you need to prepare and have witnessed a separate document called a codicil. When you have significant or many changes, preparing a new will could be best. A lawyer can help you prepare a legally binding will that expresses your wishes.

Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

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