In England and Wales the law enables you to revoke a Will in 3 ways:
1. Revoking a Will by marriage
Marriage – or a civil partnership – automatically revokes a Will. The exception is where a testator makes a Will when they are planning to get married and intend that the Will should remain valid after the marriage. In these circumstances the Will itself should include a declaration to this effect. Divorce by contrast does not revoke a Will, though any gifts to a former spouse (or civil partner) will fail.
2. Revoking a Will by making a new will
A Will is revoked when a new Will (or Codicil) is made which confirms that the testator intended the old Will to be revoked. This is why Wills usually begin with what is known as a ‘revocation clause’ along the lines of:
“I revoke all former Wills testamentary dispositions”.
However, when Wills are not prepared by a solicitor the revocation clause is sometimes missed out. When this happens there is a risk that only the clauses in the old Will which are incompatible with clauses in the new Will are deemed to have been revoked.
3. Revoking a Will by destruction
A Will is revoked if the testator (or someone acting in their presence and at their direction) destroys the Will with the intention of revoking it. Accidental destruction (or destruction of the Will by a third party who is not in the testator’s presence or acting at their direction) will not revoke a Will. Similarly an intention to revoke a Will is not sufficient.
Where a Will is not revoked it may still be possible to challenge its validity by, for instance, arguing that the testator had been subjected to undue influence or establishing that they lacked the requisite mental capacity.
If you have a query about how to revoke a will or are involved in a dispute concerning the revocation of a will then our team of specialist contested Will lawyers are here to help you. Call our free legal helpline 0808 139 1596 for a chat or send us email with brief details.