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How Do I Make Changes To Or Revoke My Will In New York?


After taking the time to plan your estate and write a will to distribute your assets after your death, you may wish to change the terms of the will or revoke the will completely. There are several ways in which you can revoke your will in New York. Some methods of revocation are more effective than others in that they provide a more permanent revocation.

The best way to clearly revoke a will is to physically destroy the original will. This can be done by tearing up the document, burning it, or otherwise physically destroying it. This action serves to revoke a will even where there are other copies of the will in existence. If a will is revoked in this manner, it tends to show your unambiguous intent to revoke the will, unlike some of the other methods discussed below. You can either destroy the physical document yourself or instruct someone else to destroy it. If you instruct someone else to destroy the will, the destruction must take place in your presence in the presence of two other witnesses.

You can also revoke a will by executing a codicil to the original will, or by executing a new will. A codicil refers to a document that is created as an addendum to a will, and which changes or adds to the provisions of the will. The creation of the codicil should follow the same procedure as those followed in the creation of will. You will have to sign the codicil in the presence of qualified witnesses and should reference the will it seeks to amend. A codicil is best used when you only want to make minor changes to a will without changing the major provisions.

Revoking a previous will through the execution of a subsequent will can be express or implicit. In an express revocation, you can include a clause in the new will that expressly revokes the prior will. In this case, if the new will is later found to be invalid on any grounds, the old will cannot be revived. There is a risk that your estate will then be divided under the laws of intestacy, which govern how a person’s property is to be divided if the person has no will.

You can also revoke an old will by creating a new will that contradicts the terms of an old will without expressly stating that the will revokes all earlier wills. In this situation, if the newer will is later invalidated on any grounds, your older will can be revived and used as your last valid will.

The best approach to revoking your will depends on what your goal is in making the necessary changes. Whatever the reason for revoking the will, you should always plan to execute a new will as soon as the old one is revoked. If you are making changes to your will based on changes in your life such as remarriage or the birth of additional children, it is important to consider making changes to your overall estate plan.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

Before your make any substantial changes to your estate plan, you should talk to a knowledgeable estate planning attorney at Meyer & Spencer, P.C., with offices in Pleasantville and Mahopac, New York, and serving Westchester and Putnam Counties.

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