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Revoking a will in North Carolina

As major life changes occur, you may want to change the provisions in your will. Knowing how to do this effectively can help ensure your property is distributed according to your wishes.

While some general guidelines can give you a basic idea of how wills work, consulting an experienced attorney is the best way to learn how to achieve your estate planning goals. In addition to drafting a will, your lawyer can suggest other types of planning and address any particular concerns you may have.

When should you revoke a will

Revoking an old will and making a new one can be a good option when you need to make some fundamental changes to significant parts of your will and adding a codicil may not suffice.

Ensuring a valid, unambiguous revocation is important, as you do not want to create a situation ripe for expensive and prolonged litigation about which will is the valid one.

Making a new will

Most wills in North Carolina exist in written form. The law provides two ways to revoke a written will: by making a new, properly executed will or by physically destroying the will. If you choose to make a new will, be sure to follow all required formalities and include dates as appropriate. To clarify that you intend the new will to revoke any previous provisions, the language should include a statement to the effect that this document revokes all prior wills.

Destroying the old will

If you want to physically destroy the old will, you need to make it clear that you are doing so purposely, with the intent of revoking the will. Otherwise, it can be possible to argue later on that any physical damage, such as ripping, happened accidentally and does not reflect your intent. Having someone witness this action can help you avoid potential issues. In addition, be sure to make a new will, or destroying an existing will may result in distribution according to North Carolina’s intestacy provisions. If you do make a new will that clearly revokes any preceding wills, as described earlier, you do not have to destroy the old will in order for the new will to be valid.