Wills are extremely important documents that dictate the future of your assets.
As such, you may understandably seek to make necessary changes over time,
either by revoking an existing will or modifying the current language
in it. Either way, you have legal grounds to do so in Texas as long as
you follow a specific protocol. In today’s blog, we will discuss
how you can legally revoke or change an existing will.
Required Elements of a Legal Will
Before discussing the legal ways for revoking or changing a will, it is
important to recall the basic requirements of a legally valid will in
Texas. Firstly, the testator (person creating the will) must be at least
18 years old, with the exception of those serving in the armed forces
or who were once lawfully married. Secondly, the testator must be mentally
capable of making sound decisions and understanding the consequences of
making their will.
Regarding the logistics of finalizing the will, the document must be signed
by either the testator or another person under their direction and in
the testator’s presence. Further, unless the will is entirely in
the testator’s own handwriting, the will must be signed by at least
2 witnesses who are over the age of 14. A Texas will should also provide
instructions for distribution of their property to at least one named
Some individuals may choose to notarize their will, though this is not
required for a will to be legally valid. One benefit, though, of notarizing
a will is that this could make a will “self-proving.” A self-proving
will simplifies the probate process in most cases, because the court can
accept the will as legitimate without needing to contact the witnesses
who initially signed it.
Revoking a Will
Unless the testator has entered a contract establishing they will not change
their will, they can revoke the will by:
- destroying or canceling all or part of the will;
- ordering someone else to destroy all or part of the will in front of the
testator at their instruction;
- making a new will that says it revokes the old will; or
- making another writing that says it revokes the old will while following
the same formalities used to make the original will.
An amendment added to the existing will that cancels part of the will is
called a “codicil.”
Note that in the case of divorce, Texas law may revoke any language in
a spouse’s will that leaves property to their spouse or names that
spouse to be the executor. This also applies to any relative of the other
spouse who is not the testator’s relative. This rule does not apply,
though, if the testator specifically states in their will or divorce decree
relating to property division that divorce should not affect the provisions
in the will.
Changing a Will
In most cases, the easiest way to change a will is to simply revoke it
and create a new one. However, if only minor changes are sought, the testator
could add a codicil to the existing will that expresses changes to certain
parts of the will. In both scenarios, though, the testator will need to
use the same finalization methods as when they first created the will
– signing in front of 2 witnesses over the age of 14.
Seek an Experienced Lawyer for Legal Counsel
If you seek to revoke or change your will in Texas, you have a couple different
options for doing so. Individuals commonly physically destroy the original
will or add an amendment that cancels a certain part of the will. Whatever
option you choose, however, you will need to finalize the change through
similar finalization processes required when first creating the will.
An experienced lawyer can better guide you through the revocation or revision
process and ensure your rights are being protected in the legal language
you wish to add or cancel.
Contact the Law Office of Kathryn Marteeny
for legal guidance if you seek to modify or revoke your will in Houston, Texas.