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What must I do to revoke my will under New York law?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2022 | Wills

In New York, when someone writes a will, it details how they want their property to be distributed and to whom at the time it is written. However, with life changes will likely come a desire to update a will. There could be a divorce, a new marriage, children, grandchildren, a windfall and other life changes. In some instances, people want to eliminate the will entirely and write a new one. If people fail to adhere to the law in these matters, it can be the catalyst for confusion once it is time for the person’s assets to be distributed to heirs. In a worst-case scenario, it might lead to an extended legal dispute among heirs as to who receives what as they sift through the documents to try and discern which will is valid. To prevent that, it is crucial to understand how to revoke a will.

What does the law say about revoking a will?

To revoke or change a will in New York, a person can simply create a new will. The testator can also make clear in written form that they intended to revoke or alter the existing will. To revoke a will, the testator can destroy it. This can be done by tearing it, burning it, cutting it and taking other steps to eliminate it from existence. The testator can have another person do this provided that the person is in the testator’s presence and is doing so at their behest. There must be two witnesses to this act in addition to the person destroying the document.

The testator can revoke the will orally (nuncupative) or in handwritten form (holographic). This also needs two witnesses. If it is a written revocation, it must be in the testator’s handwriting. It is also essential to understand codicils and how they are impacted by a revocation. A codicil is a later addition to a will that updates it. The fundamentals for revocation of wills also apply to codicils.

When crafting, revoking or updating a will, having professional advice is key

Wills and the laws surrounding them can be complex. These issues might be confusing to anyone whether they are wealthy and have hefty assets or are simply trying to create a simple estate plan to shore up the future for their loved ones. People should not feel embarrassed when they are unsure of the law and how to create or change a valid will. When crafting a will, changing it or revoking it completely, it is wise to know the proper procedures. Discussing the matter with experienced professionals who care that their clients achieve their goals is imperative.