After you review your will, you might realize that you need to make major changes. You can cancel your will any time, as long as you have the capacity to do this in the legal sense of the word. This means you must have full control of your mental abilities. If you are declared incapable, you will no longer be allowed to make a will, change it or cancel it. Cancelling is also called "revoking".
The revocation is a kind of will, and it too must meet the conditions of a will. In other words, the revocation must be handwritten, made in the presence of witnesses or done by a notary. The form you use to revoke your will can be different from the form of your original will. However, if the revocation is handwritten or made in the presence of witnesses, it must be validated by the court or a notary after you die, which involves costs and delays.
When a Revocation is Useful
A will is usually revoked in writing. A revocation is useful in these situations:
- to cancel an earlier will
The revocation can stand alone and cancel an earlier will. Here is an example of a revocation: "I revoke all wills made before this one."
If you revoke an entire will without making a new one, or without brining back an old one, your estate will be settled as if you died without a will.
- to cancel part of an earlier will
If you revoke only certain parts of an earlier will, the other parts continue to apply as long as they don't conflict with the new will.
Important! If you revoke one or more parts of your will, this can be very confusing for your executor, who will have to consider the inconsistencies between the two documents. This can lead to arguments among your heirs.
- to cancel an earlier will and express new wishes
This involves creating a new will and saying that your earlier wishes no longer apply.
Other Ways to Revoke All or Part of a Will
Aside from a written revocation, you can also revoke all or part of a will in these ways:
- giving away or selling the property mentioned in your will before you die
- destroying, tearing or shredding your holograph (handwritten) will or will made in the presence of witnesses
- crossing out the parts you want to cancel (You should sign and date the parts you cross out so your executor knows you're the one who wrote on the will and that it wasn't done by a nasty family member or the precocious little neighbour you babysit.)
Even if all of these alternatives are possible, the best thing to do is make a new will to clearly revoke all or part of your earlier will. A legal professional can give you advice and prepare a valid revocation or an entirely new will for you.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.