How Can I Revoke or Change My Will

A will is a written document outlining how a person wants his or her possessions, or estate, distributed at death. However, circumstances change--people marry or divorce, assets increase or decrease, children and grandchildren are born--and keeping a will current with these life changes is important.

Because a will does not go into effect until your death, you can alter, modify, or completely revoke it at any time. Mississippi law provides two methods of changing or revoking a will: express revocation and implied revocation.

Express revocation includes revoking a will by physical act or by writing another will.Physical revocation is the intentional act of destroying (ripping apart), canceling (drawing lines through parts), or obliterating (erase, cross out signatures, etc.) the will, or having someone do it in your presence.

While allowed by Mississippi law, physical revocation is not the best way to change a will because many complex legal issues exist in this area. The better method to revoke a will by express revocation is to make a formal, written, and dated statement of revocation, followed by preparing a new will. Or, you can write a codicil, a written statement that amends or makes changes in a previously executed will.

Implied revocation of a will can occur two ways. If you make a gift during your lifetime in place of a bequest in the will, it is implied that the gift replaces or revokes the written bequest.

Implied revocation also occurs by operation of law. For example, a person writes a will prior to having children. If the person later has children and dies without changing the earlier will, the law automatically revokes that will, and state law dictates how to divide the person's estate.

Divorce, however, is not grounds for revoking a will by operation of law in Mississippi. Therefore, it is very important to write a new will when you get married, divorced, remarried, or have children.

In fact, you should review your will every three to five years and update it as necessary. Besides marital changes and children, other life circumstances may call for updating a will. Examples are buying a house, moving to another state, a significant increase or decrease in income, or the death of relatives.

When you write a new will, you should include the date you sign and execute it. Including a sentence stating that the new will revokes all previous wills is also important. Otherwise, the court may rule that your new will revokes the old one only where the two conflict. When preparing a new will, you should write on the old one that it is "revoked and superseded by the will dated on (blank)." Keeping the old will in your files or with your lawyer may help answer any questions that could arise.

In life, everyone wants to maintain control of their property and possessions. In death, a current, properly executed will enables you to maintain that same control and have your final wishes followed.