A will can be revoked three ways in Pennsylvania:
- By another will or codicil;
- By some other writing declaring the will is revoked;
- By physical act.
The Pennsylvania statute governing the revocation of wills is found at 20 P.a.C.S. § 2505.
Revoke a Will In Pennsylvania By Executing Another Will Or Codicil
The most commonly used and preferred method to revoke a will under Pennsylvania law is by executing another will or codicil in writing.
Most wills contain language declaring that “all prior wills are revoked.” By executing a subsequent will the testator makes clear the intent to revoke all prior wills.
Revoke a Will In Pennsylvania By Subsequent Writing
A Pennsylvania will can also be revoked by “some other writing declaring the same, executed and proved in the manner required of wills…” Sometimes this document is simply called a revocation. It should explicitly state that it revokes the prior will.
The document must be executed the same way that a will is required to be executed under Pennsylvania law in order to be valid and effectively operate to revoke the prior will. Sometimes people will use this method when they want to revoke a prior will, but do not want to execute a new will.
Revoke a Will In Pennsylvania By Physical Act
The third way to revoke a will under Pennsylvania law is by committing a physical act on the document. Section 20 P.a. C.S. § 2505(3) states that a will can be revoked:
By being burnt, torn, canceled, obliterated, or destroyed, with the intent and for the purpose of revocation, by the testator himself or by another person in his presence and by his express direction. If such act is done by any person other than the testator, the direction of the testator must be proved by the oaths or affirmations of two competent witnesses.
Most disputes about whether or not a will was revoked center around this method of revocation. To effectively revoke a will by physical act, the testator must not only commit the act, but must also do the act with the intent and for the purpose of revocation. If the will was accidentally destroyed, then the requisite intent would not be present, and the will would not be revoked under Pennsylvania law.
Can a Revoked Will Be Revived?
Yes, a testator can revive a will that they have previously revoked under Pennsylvania law. Section 2506 of the Pennsylvania Statutes states:
If, after making a will, the testator executes a later will which expressly or by necessary implication revokes the earlier will, the revocation of the later will shall not revive the earlier will, unless the revocation is in writing and declares the intention of the testator to revive the earlier will, or unless, after such revocation, the earlier will shall be reexecuted. Oral republication of itself shall be ineffective to revive a will.
Therefore, in order to revive a previously revoked will under Pennsylvania law, the testator can either declare the intent to revive the earlier will in a revocation document for the later will, or reexecute the earlier will.
Does Getting Divorced Revoke a Will Under Pennsylvania Law?
No, getting divorced does not revoke a will. However, any provision in the will in favor of the ex-spouse will be automatically revoked and no longer in effect. Essentially, your ex-spouse will be treated as having died before you. 20 Pa. C.S. § 2507.
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that also provides for revocation of provisions in favor of a spouse when a testator dies while a divorce is pending but no decree of divorce has been entered, and when grounds for so doing have been established as provided in 23 Pa. C.S. § 3323(g).