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Do I Have To Physically Destroy My Will To Revoke It?

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Making a will is often not a one-time event. As your family and financial situation changes throughout your life, you will likely find yourself wanting to revoke your existing will and, hopefully, writing a new one. So how do you go about legally revoking a will in Florida? Do you actually have to physically destroy the original will?

That is certainly one way to accomplish the task. Under Florida law, a will may be revoked by “burning, tearing, canceling, defacing, obliterating, or destroying it with the intent, and for the purpose, of revocation.” You can do any of these acts yourself or direct someone else to do it on your behalf in your presence. So in a literal sense, physically destroying the will does revoke it.

But strictly speaking, that is not the only way to revoke a will. There is also what is known as “revocation by writing.” If you have ever read a will–including perhaps your own current will–you may see language that states the will “revokes all prior wills and codicils.” In effect, by signing a new will with such language, it does serve to automatically revoke any and all prior wills, regardless of whether or not those original documents were physically destroyed.

It should be noted that Florida is also one of the few states that expressly recognize “electronic wills,” i.e., wills that are created and executed online. Obviously you cannot physically destroy an online document. But you can revoke it by writing as described above. Alternatively, Florida law states that a person may revoke an electronic will by “deleting, canceling, rendering unreadable, or obliterating” the original, digitally signed file.

Automatic Revocation Upon Divorce

While not quite the same thing as revocation, there are scenarios where the law will automatically revoke parts of an otherwise valid will. This most commonly comes up in divorce cases. Let’s say you signed a will naming your spouse as executor. Sometime later, you get divorced but forgot to update your will. Upon your death, Florida law automatically revokes any provision of your will benefiting your ex-spouse. Again, this does not actually revoke or invalidate your entire will. Basically, the law simply instructs the probate court to interpret the will as if your ex had died before you.

Speak with a Florida Probate Litigation Attorney Today

Another question we often get is, “Does revoking a will reinstate a prior will?” The short answer to this question is “no.” Florida law does not allow for “revival by revocation.” So revoking a more recent will does not reinstate a prior will, even if the latter document still physically exists.

If you have additional questions or concerns about this subject and need specific counsel from a qualified Pompano Beach revoked will lawyer, contact Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation.

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