Revocation of Will

Revocation of Will
Revocation of Will
Full Overview Of Revocation of Will

A will is an important document that outlines a person’s wishes regarding the distribution of their assets after death. However, circumstances may change, and this might require the revocation of an existing will. At DLS Solicitors, we understand the complexities and legal implications of revoking a will.

This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth overview of the revocation of wills, covering legal frameworks, practical applications, and strategic considerations to ensure that your estate planning remains current and effective.

What Is Revocation of a Will?

Revocation of a will is the process by which a previously valid will is made null and void. This can happen intentionally by the person who made the will (the testator) or by the operation of the law. Once a will is revoked, it no longer has any legal effect, and the estate will be distributed according to a new will, or if there isn’t one, according to the rules of intestacy.

The Wills Act 1837 governs the legal framework for revoking a will in England and Wales. This act outlines the specific methods by which a will can be revoked and the conditions that must be met for the revocation to be valid. Case law further clarifies the application of these statutory provisions, guiding issues that may arise in practice.

Methods of Revoking a Will

A will can be revoked in several ways, each with specific legal requirements. Understanding these methods is essential to ensuring that the revocation is carried out correctly and effectively.

Revocation by Physical Act

One of the simplest ways to revoke a will is by physically destroying the document. In order for the revocation to be valid, the person who made the will must intentionally carry out the act of tearing, burning, or otherwise destroying the will with the specific intention of revoking it. This action must be done by the person who made the will or by someone else in their presence and under their guidance.

Revocation by Subsequent Will or Codicil

A will can be revoked by creating a new will or codicil that explicitly states the intention to revoke the previous will. The new document must meet the same formal requirements as the original will, including being in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two individuals. The revocation clause typically reads: “I hereby revoke all former wills and testamentary dispositions made by me.”

Revocation by Marriage or Civil Partnership

Getting married or entering into a civil partnership in England and Wales automatically cancels a will, unless the will was made specifically with the upcoming marriage or partnership in mind. So, if a person gets married or enters a civil partnership after making a will, the will becomes invalid unless it clearly states that it was made in anticipation of the marriage or partnership.

Revocation by Divorce or Dissolution of Civil Partnership

When a divorce or civil partnership dissolution occurs, it doesn’t cancel the entire will. Instead, any provisions in favour of the former spouse or civil partner become invalid. This means that any gifts or appointments (like being named as an executor) made to the former spouse or partner are revoked. The will then takes effect as if the former spouse or partner had passed away before the person who created the will.

Practical Applications and Case Studies

To depict the practical implications of revoking a will, let’s explore a few case studies that highlight common scenarios and their outcomes.

Revocation by Physical Act

Mr. Brown made a will leaving his estate to his children. After falling out with one of his children, he decided to revoke the will by tearing it up. However, he did not make a new will. Upon his death, his estate was distributed according to the rules of intestacy, as he had no valid will at the time of his death. This resulted in an equal distribution among his children, including the one he fell out with, highlighting the importance of creating a new will when revoking an old one.

Case Study 2: Revocation by Subsequent Will

Mrs. Green made a will leaving her estate to her siblings. Later, she created a new will that left her estate to her partner instead, explicitly stating that all previous wills were revoked. The new will was upheld upon her death, and her estate was distributed to her partner as she intended. This case underscores the effectiveness of revoking a will by creating a subsequent will.

Revocation by Marriage

Mr. Smith made a will leaving his estate to his friend. A few years later, he got married but did not update his will. Upon his death, his will was automatically revoked by his marriage, as it did not state that it was made in contemplation of his marriage. Consequently, his estate was distributed according to the rules of intestacy, benefiting his spouse and any children. This scenario highlights the automatic revocation of a will upon marriage and the necessity of updating a will in such circumstances.

Revocation by Divorce

After Mrs. White and her husband divorced, she did not update her will, which left her estate to him and named him as the executor. However, her ex-husband’s rights in the will were automatically revoked upon her death. As a result, her estate was distributed as if he had passed away before her. This situation highlights the importance of updating estate planning documents following major life changes like divorce.

Strategic Considerations

Successfully navigating through the process of revoking a will requires careful planning and expert legal advice. At DLS Solicitors, we closely collaborate with our clients to create effective strategies that ensure their estate planning documents are up to date and reflect their wishes.

Regular Review and Updates

It’s important to consistently review and update your will to make sure it reflects your current wishes and situation. Major life events like getting married, getting divorced, having children, or changes in your financial status should prompt you to review and potentially update your will.

Clear and Specific Language

When drafting a new will to replace an existing one, it is crucial to use clear and specific language to eliminate any ambiguity. Clearly stating the desire to revoke all prior wills and testamentary dispositions can help avoid disputes and ensure that your most recent wishes are carried out.

Communication with Beneficiaries

Make sure to keep beneficiaries informed about the contents of your will and any changes. This can help manage expectations and prevent disputes. Let your beneficiaries know if you’ve revoked a will and created a new one, so they understand your intentions.

Legal Compliance

It is essential to ensure that the revocation of a will adheres to legal requirements. Our solicitors offer expert guidance to ensure that all formalities are met, whether you are revoking a will through a physical act, creating a new will, or understanding the implications of marriage, divorce, or civil partnership.

At DLS Solicitors, we offer a range of services to support clients in all aspects of estate planning and the revocation of wills, including:

Legal Advice and Consultation

Our experienced solicitors provide personalised legal advice on the implications of revoking a will, helping clients understand their options and develop effective strategies to address potential issues.

Will Drafting and Review

We assist clients in drafting and reviewing their wills to ensure they include necessary provisions to address changes in circumstances and to revoke previous wills if necessary. Our solicitors ensure that wills are comprehensive, clear, and aligned with the client’s wishes.

Estate Planning and Updates

Our team provides comprehensive estate planning services, including regular updates and reviews of wills and other testamentary documents. We ensure that our clients’ estate plans remain current and effective, reflecting their wishes and adapting to life’s changes.

Dispute Resolution

In cases where disputes arise due to the revocation of a will or other issues, our solicitors offer robust dispute resolution services. We aim to achieve amicable solutions that protect our client’s interests and preserve family relationships.


Revoking a will is a crucial part of estate planning to ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected and that your assets are distributed according to your current intentions. By understanding the various methods of revoking a will and the legal implications, you can make informed decisions protecting your estate and your beneficiaries.

At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to providing expert guidance and support to our clients, helping them navigate the complexities of estate planning and will revocation. Whether you are drafting a new will, revoking an old one, or addressing disputes, our team is here to assist you every step of the way, ensuring peace of mind and financial security for you and your loved ones.

Our commitment to clear communication, meticulous planning, and personalised service ensures that your estate plan reflects your wishes and adapts to life’s changes. Trust DLS Solicitors to guide you through the intricacies of will revocation and all aspects of estate planning, safeguarding your legacy for future generations.

Revocation of Will FAQ'S

Revocation of a will means legally cancelling or invalidating a previously made will, rendering it ineffective and unenforceable.

A will can be revoked in several ways: by making a new will that explicitly revokes the previous one, by physically destroying the will with the intent to revoke it, by making a written declaration of revocation, or by certain life events such as marriage or civil partnership, unless the will was made in contemplation of such events.

Yes, in England and Wales, getting married or entering into a civil partnership automatically revokes any existing will, unless the will specifically states that it was made in contemplation of that marriage or civil partnership.

Yes, a will can be partially revoked by making a codicil (an amendment to the will) that changes or cancels specific provisions while leaving the rest of the will intact.

If a will is revoked and no new will is made, the estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which dictate the order of beneficiaries based on family relationships.

Once a will is revoked, it cannot be reinstated.

However, the testator can create a new will that mirrors the terms of the revoked will if they wish to do so.

Physical destruction of a will for revocation purposes includes tearing, burning, shredding, or otherwise obliterating the document with the intention of revoking it.

Accidental damage or destruction without the intent to revoke does not constitute valid revocation.

No, the revocation of a will must be carried out by the testator themselves, either by their actions or by their clear and deliberate instructions.

Another person cannot revoke a will on behalf of the testator unless they have been explicitly instructed to do so by the testator.

A codicil is a legal document that amends, adds to, or revokes parts of an existing will.

It must be executed with the same formalities as a will, including being signed by the testator and witnessed. A codicil allows for changes without the need to create a new will.

To properly revoke a will, the testator can make a new will that explicitly revokes all previous wills, destroy the existing will with the intent to revoke, or create a written declaration of revocation.

Ensuring the revocation is witnessed and documented can help avoid legal disputes.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 10th July 2024.

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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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