Life circumstances change. That means the carefully-crafted terms of your will may become outdated, and you may want to make a change. The most common and effective way to revoke a will when circumstances change is to draft a new will with the assistance of an experienced local estate planning attorney.
With the proper form and language, a new will or a codicil can revoke or alter the terms of an existing will. But, technical errors can render a will or attempted modification invalid, so it is important to get knowledgeable guidance in this process.
Alternative Ways of Revoking a Will in Ohio
The Ohio statute provides for two types of revocation of a will: intentional revocation by the testator and revocation by operation of law.
Revoking a Will Intentionally
Aside from creating a new will or codicil, an Ohio testator may revoke a will by:
- Tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying it with the intention of revoking it
- Having a third party carry out the above acts at the testator’s request and in his or her presence
- Having a third party carry out the above acts at the express written direction of the testator
- Through a writing that is properly executed under Ohio law
While tearing up or scribbling out a will may seem like the quickest and simplest way to revoke the document, these alternatives often raise questions. First, physical destruction requires intent, which means evidence that the testator ripped up the will or engaged in some other act of destruction or obliteration isn’t necessarily sufficient. And, it may be difficult for someone without specific legal knowledge to know exactly what constitutes “obliteration” or “destruction” in this context.
In addition, successful revocation of a will without replacing it will have one of two effects. If there is a prior will, destruction of the subsequent will can reinstate the previous will, provided that the testator shows intent to do so.
If there is no prior will and the testator dies without making other provisions, the estate will be governed by the laws of intestate succession.
Thus, the best way to revoke a will is with the assistance of a qualified local estate lawyer.
Revocation by Operation of Law
An Ohio will may be partially revoked by operation of law if the testator’s marriage ends in divorce, dissolution, annulment, or final separation after the creation of the will. In that case, any provision passing property to the former spouse or appointing the former spouse to a position of trust and authority such as executor, trustee, or guardian shall be treated as if the former spouse had predeceased the testator unless the will specifically direct otherwise.
For most people, this means that a reassessment and new will or codicil is in order when a marriage ends. Whether the testator’s goal is to ensure that provisions relating to the former spouse remain intact or that property and authority are distributed differently, affirmative action will likely be required.
Contact a Local Estate Attorney if You’re Considering Changing Your Will
Revocation of a will without more can leave a vacuum that results in one’s property being distributed differently than you would have preferred or created complications in the probate process.
If you’re considering revoking a will, talk to an estate lawyer about the best approach in your circumstances.
You can schedule a consultation right now by calling 440-946-7656 or filling out our contact form.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation