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How do you properly revoke a Will?

Revocation of Wills is addressed in EPTL Article 3-4.1 and explains that there are various ways that a will can be revoked or altered. First, the testator must have the intention of revoking or altering their will. Then, he or she can either:


(1) Create a new will which includes language explicitly revoking the previous will. 

(2) Produce writing which clearly indicates the changes the testator would like to make to the will and have it formally executed in the same manner as the will.

(3) physically mutilate or destroy the will or have someone else do it in the presence of the testator; or

(4) by a nuncupative or holographic declaration of revocation or alteration. This option is only available to members of the armed forces during a time of conflict, and becomes invalid one year after their military service ends.


The testator is the only individual who is permitted to revoke a will; therefore, it must be done during their lifetime. Additionally, there is no limit to how many times a will may be revoked or altered. A testator may be prompted to revoke or alter their will if he or she experiences significant lifestyle changes, such as divorce or the death of a spouse, a great increase in estate value, or simply wish to change his or her heir(s) or other beneficiaries. 

The revocation of a will also revokes all codicils (will amendments) associated with it. If a decedent’s will was in his or her own custody but can not be found at the date of death, then there is a rebuttable presumption that he or she has revoked it.


The Dependent Relative Revocation (DRR – also known as Ineffective Revocation Doctrine), if implemented by the court, would render the revocation of a previous will invalid if the testator did so by executing a new will, and that will is determined to be invalid, thus, reviving the old will. Without the DRR doctrine, both wills would be invalid and the testator’s property would pass through intestacy which would be an adverse result. The DRR is predicated on two beliefs: that the decedent did not intend to pass away without a will and that the decedent revoked the prior will under the condition that the new will would be valid. 


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