Our lives are fluid. We marry, have children, divorce, get new jobs, come into money, and lose money. For this reason, it is important to regularly update your will, as a will from five years ago may be a snapshot of your family and finances at that time, but your circumstances may now be entirely different. To avoid confusion or litigation when you create a new will, it is necessary to properly revoke your old will.
Revoke or Amend?
Revoking a will may be necessary if you have experienced a major life change or your estate has dramatically changed. These circumstances may include a new marriage, divorce, the death of a spouse, additional children or grandchildren, the creation of a trust, new wealth, or a loss of assets. However, it may not be necessary to go through the expense and full process of revoking a will. For minor changes, you may consider asking your attorney about amending your will with a codicil.
How to Revoke a Will
The Illinois Probate Act recognizes four ways to properly revoke your will, including:
- “burning, canceling, tearing or obliterating it by the testator himself or by some person in his presence and by his direction and consent”;
- “by the execution of a later will declaring the revocation”;
- “by a later will to the extent that it is inconsistent with the prior will”; or
- “by the execution of an instrument declaring the revocation and signed and attested in the manner prescribed by this Article for the signing and attestation of a will.”
What this means is that you must take clear, affirmative steps to revoke a will, or risk a legal battle in probate court between competing wills. Also, the law is clear that a mere change in circumstances, such as a change in condition or marital status, is not enough to revoke a will.
The cleanest way to revoke your will is to create a new will, which includes a declaration that you are revoking your prior will. You then have a clean document which references and revokes the prior document. Then, leave a copy with your attorney and notify everyone who received copies of your prior will. You have spent a lot of time and money planning your estate, why take unnecessary risks?
Contact the Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas today if you want to amend or revoke a will. I have spent more than twenty years counseling clients in the areas of estate planning and probate law. My team is hard working, compassionate, and thorough and will do everything to ensure that your estate plan is carried out as you intend it. Call my office today at 847-392-5893 to arrange a consultation or you can visit our website.