Revocation of Wills

Wills, by nature are revocable. In essence, testators have the freedom to change their mind about their testamentary dispositions. All they have to do is make a new Will. In Ontario, there are two main types of revocation:

  1. Those that arise by operation of the law (specifically, marriage and in some circumstances, the dissolution of marriage); and
  2. Those that arise by an act of the testator

According to section 15 of Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, a Will or part of a Will is revoked only by:

  1. Marriage, subject to section 16;
  2. Another Will;
  3. A writing
    1. declaring an intention to revoke, and
    2. made in accordance with the provision of this part governing making of a will,
  4. Burning, tearing, or otherwise destroying it by the testator or by some person with the intention of revoking it.

Revocations will not be effective if it does not meet statutory requirements. What this means is that testators must take the additional step of executing another Will, or destroying the Will, or putting in writing the proper format that they wish to revoke the Will.

Revoking a Will requires strict compliance, if it is done otherwise, the revocation can be found invalid. It is understandable that testators often change their minds about testamentary provisions they have made. But simply crossing out an original provision in a Will is not effective unless it complies with the statuary requirements regarding alterations. Similarly, if a testor gets a divorce, that individual’s Will is not cancelled, only the provisions in the Will that refer to the spouse is revoked. This means that the former spouse, will no longer be the executor, trustee or guardian, or if there were specific bequests for that spouse, it may no longer be the case. It is prudent to review your will to ensure that it is reflective of your current situation in order to prevent inadvertent revocations.