How to Destroy Your Will Correctly

03 October 2017

By Head of Wills, Solicitor James Antoniou

If you have made a Will there may come a time in the future when your wishes change or your circumstances require your Will to be changed. If you made your Will with Co-op Legal Services and wish to make small changes to it, we will make you a new Will but we won’t charge you the full price.

If you no longer want your Will to be legally effective then you need to voluntarily revoke it. The act of voluntary revocation can happen in 3 different ways:

  1. By a later Will or Codicil (which lets you make amendments to your exiting Will)
  2. By declaring in writing that you intend to revoke your Will (this will need to be signed and witnessed in the same way as a Will)
  3. By burning, tearing or otherwise destroying the Will.

In this article we look at option 3, the destruction of your Will. Whilst this may appear straightforward in principle, it’s important to know that there are conditions to follow to make the destruction of the Will legally effective.

Destroying Your Will

Your Will can only be revoked through destruction if you do it or if someone else does it at your direction. So, not only does the Will need to be destroyed but there must be the intention for it to be destroyed and you need to be of sound mind to understand what you are intending to do. The level of understanding needed is the same as when you originally put your Will in place. This means that if you destroy your Will by accident or by mistake the law will not accept that it has been revoked.

If your Will is destroyed by someone else, at your direction, it still will not be effective unless the destruction takes place in your presence.

There are instances where a person has died and the circumstances surrounding the destruction of their Will are unclear. How does someone prove whether the person intended to destroy their Will rather than it being a mistake or an accident?

Well, initially, the law in England and Wales presumes that if the Will has been physically destroyed by the owner then it was done on purpose. However, this is only the starting point and can be disproved with evidence proving otherwise. This evidence needs to be clear and satisfactory rather than speculative.

As you can see, revoking your Will by destruction isn’t as straightforward as it may at first seem. The most common way to revoke your Will and arguably the most simple is to put in place a new Will.

A Will is one of the most important legal documents you will ever sign. It should always be carefully considered and well thought through to ensure your wishes are clear about how you want your property and possessions to be distributed after you die.

More articles