There are several ways to revoke a will. This can happen when the person who made the will intends to revoke it, but there may also be some ways, that means it can happen automatically, by operation of law, even if the person who made the will did not intend to revoke it.

Intentionally revoking a will

A person can always revoke his will while he is alive and has legal capacity. A clause in a will indicating that the will cannot be revoked has no legal effect – the person who made the will can still revoke the will.

In practical terms, the destruction of the original, signed will, combined with the intention to revoke the will, is a valid means of revoking a will. If there is an electronic version of the will, you have to ensure that any electronic versions are deleted or amended to reflect the fact that the will is no longer valid.

Additionally, because disputes over wills generally arise after the death of the person who has made the will, you will probably want to make some record of your intent to revoke the will, such as a revocation clause in a new or -if you are not making a new will – some other signed, written document indicating that you intended to destroy your will and allow the intestacy rules to apply.

It is in the interest of your executors and beneficiaries to have as little ambiguity or confusion as possible in the documentation – so that they can get on with the administration of the will rather than having to worry about piecing together lots of different documents in order to determine what you intended.

Marriage – automatic will revocation

If you get married or enter into a civil partnership, then any will that you may have made prior to doing so is automatically revoked. An exception to this rule is a will that you have made in anticipation of the marriage to, or civil partnership with, the particular person involved.

Divorce or annulment

Once the marriage or Civil Partnerships are over, any gifts to the spouse or civil partner in the will automatically lapse. The rest of the will may continue to be valid, however.

This can have various consequences. For example, if the spouse were to be given a life interest in a particular asset, with the asset to go to another beneficiary on her death, the other beneficiary would immediately get the full interest in the asset when the person who made the will dies – because the spouse’s life interest in the asset would have lapsed.