How do I update, change, or revoke my will?

How you can change your will depends on what type of will you have–general or holographic. If you have a general will (a will that has been typed and/or prepared for you by another person), you may make changes to it by writing a codicil. A codicil must conform to the same requirements needed for a will to be valid: the testator must have capacity, and the codicil must be in writing, witnessed, and signed. You cannot make interlineations or erasures of portions of your will after your will has been signed by the witnesses. If you make interlineations or erasures after the will has been signed by the witnesses, your will may become invalid. 

A general will may be revoked in a number of ways. First, an old will is automatically revoked when a new and valid will is written. Second, it may be revoked through written revocation stating that the will is no longer valid. To be effective, the revocation must be executed in the same way a will would be. Third, a will may be revoked by physically destroying the will with an intent to revoke it. “Intent to revoke” means that the testator consciously and purposefully destroys the will. If a new will is not made to replace it, however, the law will presume that the testator prefers the old will to intestacy. 

If you have a holographic will and wish to make changes to it, you cannot make interlineations or erasures to your will. Interlineations or erasures to your will may make it invalid. Instead, you must either re-write your entire will or obtain a valid general will. The new will automatically revokes the previous will. You can also completely revoke your prior will by physically destroying it with the intent to destroy it. However, if a new will is not made to replace it, your property will pass as described in the will you destroyed; the law will presume that you prefer that your property pass according to your old will over intestacy. 

For more information, see: W. Va. Code § 41-1-7 (2015); Kearns v. Roush, 106 W. Va. 663, 146 S.E. 729 (1929); Miller v. Todd, 191 W. Va. 546, 447 S.E.2d 9 (1994); In re Estate of Siler, 155 W. Va. 743, 187 S.E.2d 606 (1972); De Campi v. Logan, 95 W. Va. 84, 120 S.E. 915 (1923); Douglas v. Feay, 1 W. Va. 26 (1864); Turner v. Theiss, 129 W.Va. 23, 38 S.E.2d 369 (1946); Nelson v. Ratliffe, 137 W. Va. 27, 69 S.E.2d 217 (1952); Black’s Law Dictionary 177 (10th ed. 2014); 20 Michie’s Jurisprudence Wills §§ 24, 26 (2010).