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How do you revoke a will?

The right to decide who gets what out of everything from your real estate holdings to your personal property once you die is important, which is why everyone needs a will, no matter what your age. If you die without one, the laws of your state will take over and control what happens instead.

However, your first will may not be anywhere close to your last. It isn't uncommon for people to have to revoke a will and make a new one several times over the course of their lifetime.

There are several different ways to revoke a will:

-- You can create a new will. Wills usually include language at the very beginning that automatically revoke all previous wills.

However, leaving multiple wills laying around is a recipe for confusion at best, and an invitation for fraud at worst. If someone finds a whole cache of wills that you executed over the years, there's really nothing stopping them from sorting through the wills and picking the one they find the most personally advantageous.

You could prevent this by leaving your updated will with someone you trust to make sure that it is properly executed, but the presence of older wills could still leave a disgruntled heir ammunition that he or she could use to challenge your current will.

For example, an heir that was viewed more favorably in a previous will that's still available for reading could always argue that you were in your right mind when it was drafted and suffering the affects of dementia or some other disease when the new will was made.

-- Pennsylvania law allows you to create a document that will revoke your will.

If you do have an old will that you wish to revive, you can do so by creating a document that expressly revokes your current will and revives the old one. Unless the document is properly executed, however, you could be left without a proper will in place.

-- You can destroy the actual will.

In order to revoke a will by destroying it, you can't just take a pen and draw an "X" through the pages. You have to actually burn it, tear it to pieces, write "cancelled" on all of the pages or otherwise obliterate the document with the express intention of revoking it.

If you need to revoke a will, an estate planning attorney can provide more information.

Source: Pennsylvania General Assembly, "Chapter 25: Wills," accessed Jan. 20, 2017

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