In what circumstances is a will revoked?

When a person has made a valid Will and wishes to cancel it, the law stated in section 20 of The Wills Act 1837; a Will can only be invalidated in three ways:

  1. marriage or civil partnership,
  2. making a new Will or Codicil, or
  3. by destruction (tear, burn, cancel, deface, obliterate or destroy).  

The term used is ‘Revocation’.

Revocation of a Will can be carried out at any time during the Will maker’s (known as the ‘Testator’) lifetime. However, the Will must be revoked legally, and the Testator must intend to revoke their Will, not done accidentally and is the only person who can validly destroy their own Will.  

1. Marriage or civil partnership

Once someone has entered into a marriage or civil partnership, a Will is legally revoked. This is because their new spouse or civil partner is likely to benefit under the Intestacy Rules if they die. However, there are exceptions if their intentions to marry that same person remain valid within the Will.

Does divorce revoke a Will?

Divorce does not revoke a Will, but gifts to a former spouse or civil partner will fail.

2. New Will or Codicil

If the Testator intends to make a new Will and inserts a clause within the new Will, for example, “I declare this to be my last Will and testament and revoke all previous Wills and Codicils made by me”, the intention is evident.

3. Revocation of a Will by destruction

There are two issues that need to be satisfied: the destruction of the Will itself and the intention to revoke the Will. For example, if a Will was destroyed by someone other than the Testator and not in their presence or by their direction, the Will is not revoked. Furthermore, if the Testator advises he intends to destroy the Will but does not actually destroy it, the Will is not revoked, and it remains valid.

If a Testator retrieves an original Will from a Solicitor, it is presumed the Testator destroyed the Will with the intention of revoking it and therefore, the estate would pass in accordance with the intestacy rules, which may not reflect the Testator’s wishes.

Your Will is one of the most important legal documents you will ever sign. 

You need to carefully consider your wishes and that they are very clear, remain valid so that your property and possessions can be honoured after your death.

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If you have any more questions or would like more information regarding the revocation of a Will, please contact our Contentious Probate Team below.

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