You are free to change or revoke your will at any time, for any reason (or no reason). If you’ve changed your mind about how you want to leave your property—or your will is so old that it’s simply out of date—the best way to proceed is to tear up the old will and create a new one to replace it.
When You Want to Revoke a Will
Most people find that they need to make more than one will. You need a new will when you go through big life changes: for example, you get married or divorced, you have children, or you inherit property and know that you want to leave to a certain person. Or you may want to name a different person as your executor (the person who will wrap up your affairs after your death) or your children’s guardian (the person who would raise them in the unlikely event you and the other parent were both unavailable).
In general, it’s a good idea to take a look at your will every few years. If you decide the will you have now no longer reflects your current wishes, it's always best to make a new will.
Why Not Just Amend Your Will?
You can change the terms of your will by adding an amendment, which is called a codicil, to it. But there's really no reason to add a codicil, which can confuse matters if it isn't perfectly clear how it's meant to affect the existing will. And because a codicil must be executed with all the formalities of a will--you must sign it in front of two witnesses--creating one is just as much trouble as making a whole new will. It's usually clearer and cleaner just to make a new document.
Why to Create a New Will
If you want to revoke your current will, but aren't sure what a new one should say or don't have time to get around to making one right now, you can start by tearing up the old will—and all the copies you can find—and throwing them away. You don’t need to prepare any kind of special revocation document.
Destroying the old will, however, isn’t enough. You should also make a new will.
Even if you destroy the original will, you may have given copies to others—perhaps family members or the person you named as your executor. And those copies could find their way into court after your death. Probate courts much prefer the original signed will, but in some cases they accept copies of a will, instead of the original, if there's a good enough reason—for example, if there’s good evidence that the missing will was lost, not intentionally destroyed. That means a copy of an old will, which you wouldn’t want to control how your property is inherited, might be probated and followed.
So if you want to revoke your will, you shouldn’t just destroy the original signed document--also make a new one that replaces it. Most wills start off with a standard clause that explicitly states that you’re revoking all previous wills you have signed. Then the document goes on to state your current wishes about who you want to inherit your property, serve as legal guardian to your young children, and fill the role of executor after your death.
Once you’ve printed out the will and signed it in front of two witnesses, you’re all set—until, perhaps a few years from now, it’s time to evaluate your life circumstances and make another new will.