Can a Last Will Be Revoked After a Person Dies?

By Maggie Lourdes

Individual state statutes set the rules for making, revoking, and probating last wills and testaments. An individual who makes a will, called a testator, generally has the power to revoke a will during his lifetime. After death, revocation depends on factors such as whether the will was made jointly or by one person and what the terms of the will are.

Individual state statutes set the rules for making, revoking, and probating last wills and testaments. An individual who makes a will, called a testator, generally has the power to revoke a will during his lifetime. After death, revocation depends on factors such as whether the will was made jointly or by one person and what the terms of the will are.

Will Revocations after Death

A testator who makes a will may revoke it by completing an act that shows a clear intention to revoke. For example, acts such as tearing, burning, placing an X across pages, and making a new will are valid methods of revocation. After the testator's death, if a court cannot verify any clear act that shows the testator's intent to revoke, the will remains effective. Another person may not revoke a testator's will after the testator dies.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Joint Wills and Revocation After Death

A married couple may choose to make one joint will. Most states automatically allow revocation of joint wills after the death of a spouse. Many also permit the terms of a joint will to expressly state that it may not be revoked after the death of the first spouse. An individual considering a joint will should research his state's probate laws to determine if a joint will automatically becomes irrevocable upon the first spouse's death or if the will must contain specific language to that effect.

Revocation and Will Contests

A will that is intact at the time of a testator's death may be set aside by a court after death. This typically occurs when an heir challenges or contests the will, asking a court to overturn it. Courts will only set aside a will for limited reasons. For example, a court will not overturn a will merely because a disgruntled heir feels she was treated unfairly. A court can, however, invalidate a will if an heir can show the testator was fraudulently tricked into signing his will. By invalidating the will after a testator's death, the court treats it as if it had been effectively revoked during his lifetime.

Duress, Fraud, Mistake

A court may set aside a will if the testator signed under duress or undue influence. This means the testator did not sign the will freely. For example, the testator may have been threatened or taken advantage of at the time she signed it. Legal defects in a will, such as lack of witnesses or dating, are also examples of grounds for setting aside a will.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How Is a Beneficiary Removed from a Will?

References

Related articles

Montana Law Governing Last Wills & Testaments

Montana's Uniform Probate Code governs wills throughout the state. Like other states, Montana mandates specific formalities that must be adhered to during the making of a will. Formalities are important procedures that give wills legal effect; without them, a will maker — called a "testator" — could make a will that is contrary to his actual intent.

How Long Does a Will Last?

A will containing the directions and provisions for loved ones after a person's death generally does not expire, but some events may trigger the will's revocation. The exact events that invalidate a will or some of its provisions depend on the laws of the testator's state; however, some triggering events are more commonly found in all state laws.

Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will

You cannot contest a will merely because you believe you should have received more -- you must establish legal grounds. A person with standing -- a beneficiary or somebody who could reasonably expect to be named as a beneficiary -- can file a petition with the court during probate. If the court determines that there's sufficient legal grounds, it can invalidate the entire will or particular provisions of the will.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Can More Than Two Wills Be Probated?

Very few people intentionally leave two wills. If two separate wills are offered for probate, the court generally tries ...

The Requirements for Last Wills Accepted in All 50 States

Laws regarding last wills vary slightly among all states, but in general, a will must meet certain requirements to be ...

Can You Revoke a Will by Handwriting a Note in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the revocation of a will must generally adhere to the same formalities as required for a will. Although ...

Revised Codes for Wills in Ohio

After an Ohio resident dies, his property will be distributed under the terms of his will or, if he had no will, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED