We’ve written before that you should start estate planning early and that you may encounter many reasons for wanting to change your will. So as the years pass, changes in life circumstances may lead you to want to tear up the will you wrote in your 30s and to write a completely new will or to alter the existing will.
For anyone who has written a will, it is almost as important to know how to revoke a will or to change a will. In New York, you can only revoke or change a will by taking specific steps. Failure to properly take these steps can mean that the original will you wrote (say that one from your 30s) will be the will that is put into effect when you pass on.
Generally, a will can only be revoked or changed by two ways -- writing another will or making another writing that clearly indicates your intentions. With either of these methods, the will or writing must be properly signed and witnessed to be effective. Otherwise, your old will remains effective.
If you only want to revoke your will (instead of altering it), you can take simpler steps to cancel it. An act performed by you of burning, tearing, cutting, obliterating, or any other act of mutilation or destruction is enough to revoke the will.
If you want to revoke a will or to alter a will, you must take specific steps for your act to have legal meaning. Otherwise, a vocal revocation or any other alteration may have no legal effect and your new wishes may not be carried out.