Provided a testator (the person making the Will) retains testamentary capacity a Will can be revoked (“cancelled”) at any time during the testator’s lifetime.
If a Will is revoked and a replacement Will is not made, then the testator will die intestate. If you wish to revoke your Will you should see a Solicitor. Symbolic destruction i.e. just putting a line through a Will and writing “revoked” on it may not be sufficient to validly revoke a Will.
Below are examples of acts which can revoke a Will. The list is not complete or conclusive and is merely given as a guide.
Express Revocation/Implied Revocation
Under the Wills Act 1837 a Will can be revoked in whole or in part by a later Will or Codicil.
If a later Will is made which is intended to revoke the whole of an earlier one the new Will should contain a suitable express revocation clause. A Codicil to a Will can revoke certain parts only of an earlier Will. A codicil must be carefully worded to show clearly which parts of the Will are revoked and which sections are confirmed.
Even if a new Will does not contain an express revocation clause, the earlier Will is implicitly revoked by a later one to the extent that a later document contains provisions which are inconsistent with, or repeat, the earlier one.
Unless a Will is made in anticipation of a forthcoming marriage then, for Wills executed after the 31st December 1982 the basic rule is that, if the testator marries after executing a Will, that marriage automatically revokes the Will. This rule was extended to Civil Partnerships from 5th December 2005.
If after a Will is made the testator is divorced or the marriage is annulled or declared void then the law invokes a partial revocation in that:
- The Will takes effect as if any appointment of the former spouse as an executor and/or trustee of the Will were omitted (although the appointment of any other executors and/or trustees are unaffected); and
- Any gift or bequest to the former spouse lapses, unless a contrary intention appears in the Will.
This rule was also extended to cover Civil Partnerships from 5th December 2005.
A Will destroyed accidentally or by mistake is not revoked. A Will can be revoked by burning, tearing or otherwise destroying it if the destruction is carried out by the testator or by some person in his presence and by his direction with the intention of revoking it.