When a person has made a valid Will, and they wish to cancel it, the law, as stated in section 20 of The Wills Act 1837; a Will can only be invalidated through three methods:
- marriage or civil partnership,
- making a new Will or Codicil, or
- by destruction (tear, burn, cancel, deface, obliterate or destroy).
The term used for this is ‘Revocation’.
The Revocation of a Will can be done at any time during the Will maker’s (known as the ‘Testator’) lifetime. However, the Will must be revoked legally, and the Testator must also intend to revoke their Will, not done accidentally and is the only person who can validly destroy their own Will.
Marriage or civil partnership
When an individual has entered into a marriage or civil partnership, a Will becomes 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 to this. An example would be if their intentions to marry that same person remain valid within the Will.
Can divorce revoke a Will?
Divorce does not revoke a Will. Gifts to a former spouse, however, or civil partner will fail.
New Will or Codicil
If the Testator decides to create a new Will and puts in a clause within the new Will stating, 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.
Revocation of a Will by destruction
Two issues 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 who is not 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 will remain valid.
Suppose a Testator retrieves an original Will from a Solicitor. In that case, 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. This 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 make sure that they are very clear, remain valid so that your property and possessions can be honoured after your death.
Should you have any more questions or would like more information regarding the revocation of a Will, you can get in touch with the Contesting a Will Team at Myerson Solicitors.