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28February 20

How to Revoke a Will

There are many reasons why someone would want to change or revoke a will. For example, they may have just gotten married, had a new baby, lost a life partner or loved one, or gotten a divorce. You may also have seen the rapid rise of a business enterprise. No matter what your reasons are for changing your will, the process is relatively straightforward. In this article, we’ll discuss how to revoke a will in the State of California.

Revoking a Will in the State of California

There are two basic ways for revoking or changing a will in California. You can either destroy the old will and draft a new one, or you can create a new will which cancels out the old one.

Destroying the Will

One of the most common ways to revoke a will is by physically destroying it. You can burn it, shred it, or turn it into confetti. If you have someone else destroy the will for you, they will have to do so in your presence. 


It’s worth noting that you may not be able to revoke parts of the will by voiding them. In California, amending a currently existing will is not an option. The court may treat a will that has been amended in this manner as if those sections had never been revoked. 


In almost every instance, if you want to revoke a will, your better off destroying the old one first. A court would be forced to rule on whether or not the new will is valid and that decision may not always be to your liking.

Creating a New Will

You can revoke the old will by creating a new one. Logistically, this would serve the purpose of “destroying” the old will. In practice, it creates confusion. You will have to create a new will regardless of whether you physically destroy the old will. But to avoid potential confusion, it’s always best to destroy the old will before you draft a new one.

When Should I Revoke a Will?

There are a number of circumstances when revoking a will may be necessary. These include:


  • Marriage – You should create a new will when you get married. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to create one. If you don’t have a will, your assets would be distributed according to California’s rules governing intestate succession which would give your spouse a percentage of your assets not held in common. 
  • Domestic partnerships – California recognizes domestic partnerships to an extent, but if you want your partner to inherit your estate if you pass, then you will need to stipulate as such in a will. 
  • Divorce – Changing a will after you divorce is very important because the rules that applied before the divorce no longer apply after. If you want to leave your former spouse anything, you will need to specify that in a new will.
  • The birth of a child – Children are entitled to a percentage of your assets upon your passing, but not everyone wants to leave this up to the state. It is therefore important to have a plan in place that overrides the state’s rules.
  • Stepchildren – If your family is gaining stepchildren upon your marriage, they are not automatically entitled to your estate if you pass. You will need to specify what they inherit in a will.
  • Acquisition or disposal of assets – If you’ve acquired significant assets, you’ll want to change your will to manage them if you pass. If you’ve disposed of old assets that are included in the will, you’ll want to change the will to reflect the new circumstances.


Talk to a California Estate Planning Attorney Today

If you’re wondering how to revoke a will, the California estate planning attorneys at Herbert Law Office can help guide you through the process of revoking the old will and establishing a new one. Call today for more information on how we can help.

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