Points to consider when revoking a will

Date: Mar 13, 2012

The whole point of the estate planning process is to provide instruction and support to family members and loved ones in the event of your death.

So it should come as no surprise that there can be great confusion if a person is found to have two or more wills that seem to provide conflicting information.

This is because under the relevant legislation only one of these documents can be treated as valid - while all other testamentary vehicles are to be ignored or discarded.

Certain life events - such as marriage, divorce and the introduction of children - mean that all previous wills are found to be invalid, as they may not have been drafted at a time when the needs of a spouse or any dependants were to be considered.

Importantly, alterations cannot be made to an existing will to make it current and relevant - that means that passages cannot be crossed out or removed, nor can words be added after it has been signed and witnessed.

While codicils can be used to expand on a previous will, they need to be drafted in line with the same requirements as the initial document.

As an add-on to an existing will, a codicil should not contain any clause that revokes or cancels the existing will - this would defeat the purpose of writing it in the first place.

In many cases it may be easier for the author to simply discard the previous iteration and begin anew, being careful to note that this action has been deliberate.

For some, physically destroying invalid wills may offer the security and peace of mind that comes with knowing that only one set of instructions now exists.

However, it is very important to make it clear that this act has been undertaken deliberately - usually in the presence of a trusted individual - and is noted somewhere in the new will.

These simple steps help to inform any related parties that the information provided in the latest will is both accurate and relevant.

In addition, the intentional destruction of the older documents can help to ensure that there is no reason for family to dispute a will in favour of an earlier version - as the documents no longer exist.

To make it clear to all concerned, a declaration should be included in the latest version of a will that states that the author is deliberately revoking all previous estate plans in favour of the current document.