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Stephen Beroes, Elizabeth A. Beroes, Julie Elizabeth Beroes, and Shanice Williams
Stephen Beroes, Elizabeth A. Beroes, Julie Elizabeth Beroes, Shanice Williams

How can I revoke my Will in Pennsylvania?

On Behalf of | May 10, 2024 | Estate Planning

A Will is an important piece of an estate plan. It gives you peace of mind knowing that when you pass away your assets will be distributed according to your wishes, hopefully reducing family disputes and conflict.

There may come a time in your life where a major, unexpected change, such as a divorce, causes you to want to change your Will or revoke your Will altogether. You may wonder if you can revoke, or cancel, your Will.

Pennsylvania law allows you to revoke your Will anytime before your death. There are many ways to revoke your Will but you must make sure you do it properly. Otherwise, your old Will might remain in effect, causing significant complications, especially if you have a new Will drafted and there are questions about which Will controls.

Intent and action

Before we discuss the ways to revoke your Will, it is important to know that a Will cannot be revoked without intent. You must intend to revoke your Will and perform an act that revokes the Will.

This means that a Will cannot be revoked accidentally. You should not worry about your Will being revoked if it is lost or stolen. Although there may be difficulties recreating the contents of the Will, without proof that you intended to revoke it, it will not be revoked simply because it cannot be found.

However, a valid revocation requires action in addition to intent. You must do more than declare your intention to revoke the Will. If you tell everyone in your family that you revoke your Will, but do nothing else, your Will is still considered legally valid.

You must be mentally capable of revoking your Will. If you are legally incapacitated when you revoke your Will, the revocation might not be binding.

A valid revocation requires intent plus another act. A common act is physically destroying your Will while declaring your intent to revoke it.

Physical destruction can be accomplished through burning, tearing or any other physical act that removes the words in the Will to where they are no longer discernable. Drawing lines through the words in the Will would likely be a proper physical act to revoke.

Inconsistent terms between Wills

Another way to revoke your Will is to have a new Will drafted that contains language stating that the new Will revokes all other prior Wills. A codicil, or amendment, to a Will can revoke a Will, as well.

If you draft a new Will but do not include revocation language, your wishes may still be honored through a legal revocation. This means that if any provisions in your new Will contradict provisions in your old Will, the new provisions Will be deemed legally valid.

Although some of these ways to legally revoke a Will might seem simple, many probate disputes involve questions about which Will controls or if a Will was properly revoked. A professional review of your estate planning documents is often a good idea.