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

by Andrine Redsteer
Wisconsin allows a testator to revoke a will by making a subsequent will.

Wisconsin allows a testator to revoke a will by making a subsequent will.

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In Wisconsin, the revocation of a will must generally adhere to the same formalities as required for a will. Although Wisconsin allows a revocation to be in the testator's handwriting -- as opposed to typed -- other formalities are required to ensure the revocation is valid. In other words, a simple note may not be enough.

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Handwriting and Capacity

Wisconsin allows testators to make "holographic" wills; these are wills that are handwritten. Whether a will is handwritten or typed, certain formalities are required. A testator must have the capacity to make a will. This means he must understand the effect of making a will and the extent of his property. Similarly, a testator may revoke his will with a subsequent handwritten will and recognize its effect.

Witnesses and Signature

Wisconsin requires a testator to sign his will or revocation. A will or revocation must be "attested to," or witnessed. Two witnesses are required and they must sign the will or revocation as well. The witnesses may sign either while the testator is signing it or within a "reasonable time" of witnessing the testator's signature or acknowledgement of the will.

Note Vs. Another Will

The Wisconsin statutes do not address whether a testator's handwritten note is sufficient to revoke a will. Thus, a note stating, "I hereby revoke my will" may not be sufficient. The statutes allow for a "subsequent writing," or revocation, by making a subsequent will that expressly revokes a prior will. The statutes also address the revocation of a prior will by making a subsequent will that is inconsistent with a prior will. The subsequent will may be written by hand, but it must adhere to formalities such as attestation and signatures.

Revocation: Physical Act

In Wisconsin, a will is considered revoked if the testator physically destroys it with the intent to revoke it or directs someone else to do it in his presence and at his direction. The physical act of revoking a will may include burning it, tearing it or canceling it. The Wisconsin statutes do not recognize writing a note as a physical act.