How to Legally Modify or Revoke Your Will (Circumstances That Demand Revisions)

Updating your will ensures that your family receives your estate assets as intended. Failure to update your legal will might result in beneficiary disputes, asset allocation against your preferences, or unintentional exclusion of loved ones.

Understanding how to legally change or revoke your will is essential to its legality and efficacy. This includes understanding when and how to update, whether by codicils or a new will and how to acknowledge these changes legally.

This legal process requires a good estate lawyer or last will attorney. You may keep your last will and testament current by understanding these procedures and receiving legal assistance.

Reasons to Revise Your Will or Estate Plan

Category Circumstances Reason for Revision
Life Events Marriage or Divorce Marriage can revoke a will unless made in contemplation of marriage; update to reflect new marital status and intentions.
Birth or Adoption of a Child Ensure the new child is included as a beneficiary and provided for according to your wishes.
Death of a Beneficiary or Named Executor Designate a new beneficiary or executor to ensure estate distribution and management as intended.
Significant Changes in Assets Reflect substantial changes in financial situation to distribute current assets accurately.
Changes in Relationships Reconciliation or Estrangement with Family Members Adjust valid will to include or exclude individuals as beneficiaries based on relationship changes.
New Significant Relationships Update to recognize and provide for new partners, such as common-law partnerships.
Legal and Estate Taxes Changes Updates in Estate Tax Laws Revise simple will to optimize the estate plan and minimize tax liabilities for beneficiaries.
Changes in Provincial Laws Regarding Last Wills Ensure legal will remains compliant with current legal standards in Alberta.
Personal Health Care Decisions Diagnosis of a Terminal Illness Outline burial wishes and ensure clear distribution of assets.
Planning for Long-Term Care Allocate sufficient property resources for long-term personal care while preserving estate for beneficiaries.

A Guide to Lawfully Modifying Your Will

Creating a Codicil

Codicils allow specified adjustments or additions to your will and other legal documents without rewriting them. They modify, explain, or revoke provisions in the original will and must follow the same legal process.

Creating and Executing Codicil

  1. Ask an Estate Lawyer. Contact an estate lawyer to establish a legally solid codicil.
  2. Draft Codicil. Say what you want to change your legal document. Change, add, or cancel specific elements of your own will.
  3. Execution Formalities. You, the testator (or will maker), must sign the codicil before two non-beneficiaries. The witnesses must sign it with you.
  4. Attach to Original Will. Attach the codicil to the will and store the legal documents safely

When to Use a Codicil versus Drafting a New Will

A codicil is the way to go when making small changes, like changing the name of a beneficiary or the executor or adjusting small bequests. A lawyer-drafted will is the best course of action to avoid confusion and guarantee clarity when making significant changes, such as adding new beneficiaries, rearranging your estate assets, or making extensive revisions.

Drafting a New Will

Developing New Provisions and Identifying Changes

  • Examining Estate Planning Wills. Determine which sections need updating or revision based on your current needs. Ensure you review lawyer-drafted wills thoroughly.
  • Draft New Will. State your new beneficiaries, executors, and bequests. Make your intentions clear and legal. Doing it with estate lawyers ensures you get sound legal advice for your new estate plan. 

Alberta Laws Regarding Proper Witnessing and Signing

  1. Formal Requirements: The Alberta Wills and Succession Act requires you to write and sign the new will.
  2. Witnessing: The signing must be properly witnessed by two non-beneficiaries (not a family member). These witnesses must sign the will with you to make it legally valid.
  3. Revocation Clause: New wills should revoke any earlier wills and codicils to avoid ambiguity.

Storing and Notifying the New Will

Keep the new will in a fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or with your estate lawyer. Inform your executor and major beneficiaries of your new will and its location. Giving your estate lawyer and trusted relatives copies of your will makes it easy to find when needed.

The Lawful Process of Revocating a Will

Physical Destruction

Methods of Destroying a Will

  1. Tearing: Physically tearing the will into pieces.
  2. Burning: Burning the will to ashes.
  3. Shredding: Using a shredder to destroy the will entirely.
  4. Obliterating: Marking over the text so it cannot be read or understood.

Witnessing and Documenting Destruction

It is best to destroy the will before at least two witnesses who can attest to your plan to revoke it lawfully. These witnesses should not be will beneficiaries. Photographing or writing a witness-signed record of the destruction procedure might also prove your intent to cancel the will.

Revocation in Writing

Written revocation statements explicitly declare your intent to revoke your will(s). Written revocations are less common than physical destruction or establishing a new will, but they can be helpful if you want to revoke a will without replacing it. These important documents should include:

  • Your full name and address.
  • A clear statement that you revoke all previous handwritten wills and codicils.
  • The date of the statement.

Changes Made by Writing on a Will: The Formalities

Difference Between Writing and Marking

To update your will, you must distinguish between writing and marking. 

  • Writing involves adding or replacing text in your will without altering its structure. 
  • Marking entails making comments or adjustments to existing text without adding new words.

Application of the Dispensing Power

Some courts employ “dispensing power” to accept will revisions. If they believe the alteration reflects what you desired, judges can approve it even if they don’t follow all the regulations. Your local rules and situation determine how to use this ability.

Will Text No Longer Appears: Formalities for Changes 

Obliterating text on a will makes understanding the testator’s intentions difficult. These changes may be intentional, like scratching out or covering text, or accidental, like document damage.

Reforms should address concerns about will text obliteration:

  • Invalidity Presumption. Establishing a presumption of invalidity for will changes that hide or destroy large areas requires compelling and convincing proof to refute.
  • Requirement for Restoration: The testator or a qualified person (like an executor) must restore or explain the deleted text before confirming the alterations.
  • Technological Solutions. Investigating digital storage and authentication technologies to protect wills and preserve their content.

Practical Tips for Managing Will Revisions

Consult an Estate Lawyer/Attorney

Revisions to your will require a professional estate planning attorney. Estate lawyers can guarantee that revisions comply with Alberta’s Wills and Succession Act. They can also help prevent frequent blunders that invalidate your will or cause beneficiary disputes.

Seeking a Competent Estate Planning Lawyer

  • Research: Find estate lawyers with a high reputation for handling complex estate, online wills, and the probate process.
  • Referrals: Request advice from friends, family, and financial advisors.
  • Consultations: Discuss your needs with estate lawyers to determine their experience and suitability. Know the probate fees, their knowledge of estate law, and what individualized legal advice they can offer you.

Communicating Changes

You must notify your executors and beneficiaries of will amendments. Clear communication eliminates disagreements and ensures everyone understands your updated wishes.

Helping Understand New Provisions

  1. Detailed explanation. Explain the changes and their rationale to your executors and beneficiaries.
  2. Summary in writing. Write a summary of the main changes for reference.
  3. Set up a meeting. Meet with your executor/s and primary beneficiaries to outline the changes and answer straightforward questions.




Ensure Valid Will Revisions With Professional Estate Lawyers

Life can change unexpectedly, so changing your will regularly prevents unwanted effects and ensures your estate is managed as planned. Maintaining your assets and providing for your family’s future requires proactive estate plans, including will reviews and revisions.

A trustworthy wills attorney from NG Sidhu assures that your estate planning paperwork and important documents are legal, protecting your legacy and reducing disputes. By following these procedures and working with our lawyers, you can ensure that your complex estate plan will be managed as intended.


Frequently Asked Questions

How frequently should I change or update my will so it remains current?

Regularly revisiting your will ensures it reflects your current wishes and circumstances. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and financial changes should necessitate will reviews.

Maintaining an up-to-date will require:

  1. Annual Reviews: Discuss updates with your attorney at a yearly will review.
  2. After Events in Life: Review your will after major events that may alter estate planning.
  3. Document Updates: Note any changes or possible revisions to discuss with your attorney during evaluations.

Can I revise my will without hiring a lawyer?

Yes, you can amend your will without an attorney, but there are several critical considerations:

  • Legal compliance. Valid wills must meet severe legal standards. Changing these standards incorrectly could invalidate your updates and lead to legal issues or unfulfilled wishes.
  • Errors and ambiguities. DIY alterations can lead to typos or imprecise terminology, confusing or conflicting beneficiaries, and disputes or misinterpretations.
  • Leaving out crucial details: An attorney can see financial consequences, state-specific rules, and the requirement for powers of attorney or living wills you may have missed.

How do I update my will after moving to another province or country?

When you move to a new province or country, examine your will to ensure it follows the local laws. In British Columbia, you should:

  • Consult Local Attorney: If you require legal advice, an estate planning attorney can examine your will kits.
  • Adjust as Needed: Adjust for local regulations like witness requirements, representation agreement, and property distribution.
  • Re-execute Will: The new jurisdiction’s laws require signing and seeing the amended will.

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