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Modifying and invalidating a will

While studies have shown that less than half of American adults (in general) do not have a will, that does not mean that statistic holds true across all demographics. Indeed, older Americans seem to be more apt to take the advice of estate planning experts to heart. Information shared by Gallup shows that 68 percent of Americans over the age of 65 do indeed have a will. Yet even those that prepare their wills later on in their lives might still have plenty of time to change their attitudes towards the terms they disclosed therein. 

Divorce, a death in the family, or any other manner of events can cause one to rethink the provisions stipulated in their will. How, then, are they to modify their will in order to reflect their current desires? Per Section 6120 of the California Probate Code, if one creates a second or subsequent will that contradicts the terms of any earlier will (either in whole or in part), the law recognizes the subsequent will as having invalidated the first. If the subsequent will only contradicts certain aspects of the earlier one, those terms that are directly inconsistent with those of the earlier one are deemed valid, while all other points of the earlier will remain intact. 

When one does choose to submit an updated will, the potential for discord amongst those who are party to their estate is always present. If a testator wants to reaffirm their intentions to update their will, they can legally do so by ceremony. Burning, tearing or destroying an actual copy of one’s will in the presence of witnesses serves to invalidate it. One only has to to do this once (even in cases where several copies of their will exist) provided that their intentions are verified through witnesses. 

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