When a person decides to make a will they intend for that will to be upheld. Creating a will is governed by statute and the same thing goes for revoking it. There are several ways that a will can be revoked by law. Let’s explore these different ways to legally end a will.
Revoking a Will by Destruction
A will can be revoked if it is destroyed by burning it, tearing it, etc. There are however two things that must occur to cancel it formally. First, the act must have been done by the testator. This has to be proved by witness or some other recordable means. The second thing is that the testator had the “animus revocandi” which means the intention of revoking the will with his or her acts.
Obliterating a will is another form of destruction and can take place when a person strikes out the words of the will with a pen. That revokes a part of the will or any clause thereof. But, just as the intention must be known as above stated for other means of destruction so should it be apparent or proven for striking out sections of a will using this technique.
Two things to remember in a case of revoking a will by destruction is that the animus revocandi must continue until the completion of the act. This means that if a person is tearing up their will and pieces are flying, showing obvious intent, they can still stop the act even if a piece of the will remains. If they show remorse for the action or they begin to think it over then the animus revocandi has ceased before they completed the process. The other thing to remember is that if a testator tossed the entire will onto a burning fire yet the will was rescued, by say the beneficiary, then the will would not be revoked. But the words could not be burnt, the edges may but the letters should not.
The seal and signature are extremely important to a will. Not many people use seals now days but some still do. In the even that a person does still use a seal and they deliberately cut the seal with the intent of revoking that will it will be revoked. The same thing goes for a signature. If the testator removes or destroys his or her signature from a will that too will hold as legally destroying the validity.
Revoking a Will by Cancellation
A simple act of writing canceling words on the will can also serve as a revocation method. For instance, if the testator writes something like: “canceled”, “void”, etc. across the face of the document, this is sufficient for revoking a will. If it is written in a margin, under the endorsement, or somewhere discretely located it might not be revoked even if the animus revocandi is present.
Because the right to revoke is statutory it must be performed as the statue says it should. If it is not done accordingly, even with the obvious intent of revocation by the testator, the act may not be sufficient.
Revocation by Circumstances
A complete and total change to the circumstances of a person’s life can constitute the revocation of a will. For instance, the testator’s subsequent marriage and the birth of children from that marriage. Either one of theses circumstances, or changes, alone do not usually hold up in court as it does not reflect a total change. It has to be both. However this area of modern law keeps changing and can change from state to state or case to case.
Dependent Relative Revocation
In some cases, a person that is trying to revoke his or her will will fail. Why does this happen? Well, there are specific factors that prevent such an act. If it is clear that the testator made a mistake or was confused about the facts surrounding any part of the will, this is a primary reason that the revocation may not hold up in court. This is how the rules break it all down:
-Rule number one: if the person that intends to revoke the will does so because of one fact, say that he believes that all of his heirs are deceased, but it turns out that he was wrong, it would not be successful.
-Rule number two: if the act of revocation is part of a larger act that was not completed. This means that if a person cancels his will because he intends to alter it, but he dies before the alteration could be complete, the old will did not get properly revoked and would then be enforced.
-Rule number three: if one and only one failed reason was the means behind the desire to revoke the will, this rule takes place in courts of equity not courts of law, yet is enforced by courts of probate.
So, in conclusion, when dealing with the revocation of a will, whether you are the testator or beneficiary, you should remember these points to help you better understand what will and what will not be enforced and upheld by the courts.