When revoking a will, make sure to follow the law

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Estate Administration & Probate |

In Massachusetts, creating a will is a key part of being vigilant and prepared for the future. However, just because they have completed and executed the document does not mean it is set in stone.

How is a will revoked?

State law says that a will can be revoked in full or in part if the person – also known as the testator – executes an entirely new will. A new will can explicitly revoke an earlier will, or it can do so by being inconsistent with the earlier will.

For example, if the initial will says that a child will receive certain property and a new will states that the property will go to someone else, that would constitute inconsistency and the subsequent will would be in effect.

A simple way to revoke a will is to perform an act such as destroying it, tearing it up or burning it. The testator can do this themselves or ask another person to destroy it while in the testator’s presence.

Subsequent wills do not need to specifically revoke a prior will. Simply executing a new will revokes the previous will whether it is because it is inconsistent or that the intention was the replace the will.

There is a difference between replacing a will and supplementing it. To replace a will, the person’s property must be completely disposed of in the new will. If the testator was married and got divorced between the time the initial will was written and the testator created a subsequent will, then their decision to omit the former spouse and leave the property to someone else would mean the property was addressed differently. This is not supplementing a will, but replacing it. When the property is not completely disposed of in the new will, then it is viewed as a supplement.

Writing, executing and revoking a will should be done properly

As people age, their lives will change. That means they might want to revoke part of their will or in its entirety. If this is not done according to the law, it can lead to disputes and extended legal challenges. This can cause problems for loved ones.


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