The main formalities for making a Will seem to be generally better known than the different ways in which a Will can be revoked. Even the term ‘revocation’, meaning to undo or cancel, may be unfamiliar to many people. A Will can, of course, be revoked expressly but it is also worth bearing in mind the ways in which it may also be revoked by implication, oversight or circumstance. Did you realise, for example, that marriage will revoke your Will?
Burn it, rip it, eat it
If someone wants to destroy their Will then they must show an intention to revoke it entirely, preferably by completely destroying it by burning or tearing. Otherwise if a part of the Will were later to be found this could imply that the partial destruction of the Will was unintentional and its contents could still be held as valid. In Cheese v Lovejoy a man scrawled ‘revoked’ on every page of his Will and threw it in the wastepaper bin, only for it to be retrieved by his maid (who was entitled to inherit the lot!) and upheld as valid. Not many of us have maids these days, but the principle is worth remembering nonetheless.
An implied revocation can occur when a person already has a Will but then later writes a new one which is inconsistent with the earlier one. It is, therefore, advisable to state expressly in the Will that it replaces all former ones. This should avoid any confusion if another, earlier Will is later discovered.
Circumstances which can revoke a Will
Marriage or Civil Partnership affecting a valid Will
It is important to be aware of the fact that if you have written a Will and subsequently marry or enter into a civil partnership then (unless you have made your Will in contemplation of marriage) the entire Will is automatically revoked.
Divorce affecting a valid Will
If you make a gift to your spouse in your Will and then subsequently divorce, that gift will be treated as invalid. However, the divorce does not affect the whole Will, just the gift to the former spouse who is effectively treated as having predeceased the Will.
It is important to keep in mind that your actions may actually have a different result to that which you intended. If you would like to discuss matters further please do not hesitate to contact us.
Published: 30 Nov 2010