Revocation of a will

What does the revocation of a will mean?

The revocation of a will means that it is cancelled. There are a variety of ways to do this. A will can be cancelled either voluntarily or by operation of the law.

Voluntary revocation

A will can voluntarily revoked by:

  • destroying it;
  • writing another will or codicil;
  • making a declaration in writing of an intention to revoke.

Destroying a will

If you want to destroy your will and make another, you must show an intention to entirely revoke the will. If you want to cancel your will, it is advisable to completely destroy it. For example, burning it is a reliable method, or deleting the important parts so that it becomes unreadable.

If part of the will is found later, this could imply that the destruction of the will was unintentional and as a result the contents of it could still remain to be valid.

If someone other than the testator destroys the will, it must be done with the testator present and at their request. A will destroyed accidently or mistakenly is not revoked because it cannot be shown that the testator had the required intention to revoke it.

Writing a new will

It is advisable when writing a will to expressly say that this will replaces all former ones and that the new will is the most recent and effective one. This avoids any confusion if another will is later discovered which was earlier thought to be destroyed.

The new will must follow the stipulations of the Wills Act 1837 to be valid, ie, it must be in writing, signed by the testator (or by some other person in their presence and by their direction), in the presence of at least two witnesses.

You can make small changes to your will using a document called a codicil. This lets you amend an existing will instead of totally re-writing it. A codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as your original will, although the witnesses do not have to be the same as those used for the original will.


You can make a declaration in writing declaring an intention to revoke a previous will; however, the declaration must be executed in accordance with the same formalities required for the making of a will.

Revocation by law

Marriage or civil partnership

If you have written a will and then later get married, the entire will written before the marriage will be rendered invalid, regardless of your intentions. In this situation, the rules of intestacy will apply instead. A will made before marriage will only still be valid after the wedding if, for example, the will was written in contemplation of marriage and you intended that the will should not be revoked by the marriage. The same rules apply if you have formed a civil partnership.


If you leave a gift to your spouse in your will, then subsequently divorce, the gift to your ex will be treated as invalid. The gift also cannot be passed to the former spouse when the maker of the will dies. This does not affect the whole will but just the gift to the former spouse. The spouse is effectively treated as having predeceased the will.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.