To revoke a will by destroying it, the testator must burn, tear, cancel, or obliterate it with the intent of and for the purpose of revoking it. This means that if any of these things happen to an otherwise valid will by accident, it has not been revoked. If a testator would like to revoke his or her will by destroying it, but is physically unable to do so, another person can destroy the will for the testator. However, the destruction of the will must occur in the presence of the testator and at the testator’s direction, and two witnesses must be present who can confirm these facts.
To revoke a will by executing a new will, the new will must either be inconsistent with the earlier will (in which case the earlier will is revoked by inconsistency), or the new will must contain an express statement that it revokes the earlier will.
A testator may also revoke his or her will indirectly, in whole or in part, by operation of law, if the will contains provisions for the testator’s spouse or state registered domestic partner and the testator then divorces or dissolves the domestic partnership.1
Note that when a testator revokes a will, the revocation will revoke any codicils to the will, unless the testator demonstrates that he or she does not intend to revoke the codicils. In addition, it is possible to revive a previous will by revoking a subsequently executed will. Revoking a will that was subsequently executed does not automatically revive the previous will. However, evidence can be introduced during probate proceedings to show that this was the testator’s intent in revoking the later will.2
If you would like to change a portion of your will without revoking it, read about modifying your will.