How Do You Revoke a Will In New Jersey?

A testator can revoke a will in New Jersey by:

  1. Executing a subsequent will that revokes the previous will or part expressly or by inconsistency; or
  2. By the performance of a revocatory act on the will.

 

The law governing how a testator can revoke a will is found at N.J. Stat. § 3B:3-13.

Revoke a Will In New Jersey By Executing a Subsequent Will

The most common way to revoke a will in New Jersey is by executing a subsequent will.

The subsequent will can expressly state that it revokes the previous will.  Indeed, most wills prepared by a New Jersey probate lawyer contain a statement that all prior wills are hereby revoked.

If the subsequent will does not expressly revoke the previous will, the execution of the subsequent will wholly revokes the previous will by inconsistency if the testator intended the subsequent will to replace rather than supplement the previous will.

New Jersey law establishes presumptions to determine when a testator intended a subsequent will to replace or supplement a previous will.  Section 3B:3-13 states:

 (2)    The testator is presumed to have intended a subsequent will to replace rather than supplement a previous will if the subsequent will makes a complete disposition of the testator’s estate.  If this presumption arises and is not rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, the previous will is revoked; only the subsequent will is operative on the testator’s death.

(3)   The testator is presumed to have intended a subsequent will to supplement rather than replace a previous will if the subsequent will does not make a complete disposition of the testator’s estate.  If this presumption arises and is not rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, the subsequent will revokes the previous will only to the extent the subsequent will is inconsistent with the previous will; each will is fully operative on the testator’s death to the extent they are not inconsistent.

When a subsequent will does not explicitly revoke the previous will, the testator’s intent as expressed in the terms of the subsequent will comes into play, specifically whether the subsequent will makes a full or partial disposition of the testator’s estate.  This situation can easily be avoided by simply including express language in the subsequent will that all previous wills are hereby revoked.

Revoke a Will In New Jersey By Revocatory Act

A will can also be revoked under New Jersey law by the performance of a revocatory act on the will.  The revocatory act must be performed by the testator with the intent and for the purpose of revoking the will or part, or can be performed by another individual in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction.

A “revocatory act on the will” includes any of the following acts on the will or any part of it:

  • Burning
  • Tearing
  • Canceling
  • Obliterating
  • Destroying

 

Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 3B:3-13, “a burning, tearing or cancelling is a “revocatory act on the will,” whether or not the burn, tear, or cancellation touched any of the words on the will.”

It is not difficult to revoke a will under New Jersey law, but it is always a good idea to consult with a New Jersey probate lawyer to make sure that your testamentary wishes are in effect.

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