Do Wills Expire?

By Carrie Ferland

Wills are perpetual by nature, which means once the testator proofs and validates his will, it will never terminate. In this regard, a will can never actually “expire,” and there is no restriction that limits the time during which a will is still valid. However, there are certain ways a testator can terminate the validity of his will during his lifetime, and additional restrictions on the time during which the executor of the will can initiate probate.

Revised Wills

Once a testator executes a valid will, she has the authority to revise the will at any time. Testators often revise their wills upon a major life-changing event, such as a marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a new child, or a death in the family. While a testator can simply amend her will using a codicil, which is attached to the end of an original will, many people will draft an entirely new will to ensure the changes override the original instructions in the will. Once a testator executes the new will, the old will is revoked and considered void for all intents and purposes by the probate court.

Revoked Wills

A testator also has the power to terminate his will during his lifetime by revoking it. To revoke his will, a testator can either destroy the original document and any copies thereof or draft a new document, dated subsequent to the original will, stating he revokes the will and voids it from that day forward. No one other than the testator, including the administrator or anyone with powers of attorney over the testator, has the authority to revoke the will on a testator’s behalf.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Transitory Wills

Although exceedingly rare, the final way a will can expire is when the will is defined a transitory. To establish a transitory will, the testator can define an expiration within the will, effectively voiding the will at a specific time. Transitory wills contain a condition that if the will is not probated by a certain date or before a certain event, the will becomes invalid and the beneficiaries lose their right to claim their inheritance. Once the date or event passes, the terms of the will are void and cannot be rectified.

Probated Wills

While a will itself cannot expire without the testator's action, many states do limit the time during which a will can be filed for probate. This is called a statute of limitations, and it can affect the inheritance of the testator’s beneficiaries if the will is not filed before it elapses. For example, if the will bequeaths a piece of real property to a beneficiary, but the will was never probated, the beneficiary could lose her rights to claim the property, barring her from living in, renting or selling it to anyone else. Beneficiaries can avoid this by filing a copy of the will with the probate court themselves if the executor refuses to do so, or petitioning the court to appoint a new administrator if the executor possesses the only copy of the will.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What if an Executor of an Estate Destroys the Decedent's Last Will & Testament?


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.

AZ Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will

Arizona offers three types of probate proceedings: informal, formal and supervised. Supervised probate is rare and involves continuous court intervention under special circumstances. Most wills are submitted for informal probate, a shorter and usually less expensive process. Probate should be opened within two years of the testator’s death, and objections to the will should also be filed within two years, though there are numerous exceptions.

Is Amending Your Will Yourself Legal in Iowa?

A will or testament is a legal document that disposes of property upon a person's death and designates a guardian for the decedent's minor children, if any. When a person creates a will in Iowa, he must follow the state's prescribed legal procedures for drafting a will so it is valid and will be implemented upon death. The same legal procedures must also be strictly followed to amend a will.

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

Related articles

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will in North Carolina?

When a will is filed with the appropriate court, family members or other interested parties can contest the will and ...

How Long Do You Have to Contest a Will?

Contesting a will is one of the most complicated aspects of estate law. Deadlines and provisions vary from state to ...

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 ...

Can a Last Will Be Revoked After a Person Dies?

Individual state statutes set the rules for making, revoking, and probating last wills and testaments. An individual ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED