Ripping and Tearing – How to Revoke a Prior Will

You’ve just looked at the will you created ten years ago and you say “Whoa, what was I thinking?” Then you realize – if I die this moment before I revise my will, my ex spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. is going to inherit my estate. You start to reach for a bottle of Jack Daniels when someone tells you: “No, put the bottle down! The answer can be found in the New Hampshire statutes!” That’s when you read RSA 551:13.

New Hampshire law provides that no will (or clause within a will) is revoked unless you write another will or a codicil (a will amendment) or you execute a writing saying that you revoke your prior will (executed in the same manner as your will – 2 witnesses, notary, etc.), OR you cancel, tear, obliterate, or otherwise destroy your prior will. You or someone at your direction have to be the one to  destroy the instrument.

So – to revoke a will, two things come together: an act and an intent. If you inadvertently tear and obliterate, it is ineffective. If you think you want to revoke your will, but you don’t do it, it’s ineffective.

Here’s a good one: you rip up a duplicate original of your will. You know that an original exists, but you don’t rip up the original. What’s the result? The answer is: the ripping of the duplicate is not effective because you didn’t rip up the original. We get to this result because all we have is the testator’s own opinion that he/she has revoked his/her will. We have nothing more.

The testator hasn’t fulfilled the conditions necessary to exercise his/her right to revoke. The rule is well stated in a New Hampshire case entitled In re Estate of Laura: In New Hampshire, a testator can revoke a will by (1) properly executing a separate will, codicil or other writing, or (2) performing a physical act of destruction. See RSA 551:13. Either act must be accompanied by an intent to revoke.

So, put the Jack Daniels away and do things right. Contact a lawyer. Call Decato Law office for help with revoking a prior Will in New Hampshire – we’re here to help.

R. Peter Decato

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