The following describe the circumstances, whether intentional or not, in which a will becomes revoked under the English law.
Revocation of privileged wills (those in the armed forces and seamen at sea)
In the same way that those engaged in actual military service and seamen at sea can make a will at any age, orally and without any formalities, they can also revoke a will at any age, orally and without any formalities.
Revocation by marriage or civil partnership
If a testator goes through a ceremony of marriage or registration of civil partnership after the date of making a will, it revokes the will, unless the will was made with that particular marriage or partnership in mind and was intended to continue in force after the marriage or partnership. The will may show such an intention in respect of the person concerned either expressly saying so or by clear implication, such as referring to him as the testator’s fiancée or future husband or partner.
Marriage to or registration of a partnership with one person will, of course, revoke a will which states that it is made in contemplation of marriage to or partnership with a different person.
Any appointment of property made by will in the exercise if a power of appointment that the testator has will not be revoked if he subsequently enters a civil partnership (unless the property would form part of his estate if he had not made the appointment).
Revocation by destruction with intention to revoke
A will would be revoked if it was destroyed by the testator or by another person at his request and in his presence. In either case the testator must have intended that the will should be revoked. The formalities must have been strictly followed.
It is not sufficient that the word ‘revoked’ is written on the will or that part of the will has been crossed out. If the will is only partially destroyed or obliterated, for example, by tearing a piece out of the will, unless that piece is a vital part of the will, only the piece torn out or obliterated will have been revoked and the remainder of the will will still be valid.
If the will was accidentally destroyed, or if the testator was so intoxicated that he did not know what he was doing when he destroyed the will or if he otherwise lacked mental capacity, the will shall remain valid. Moreover, if the testator asked someone to destroy his will of him, the destruction will have been ineffective unless it was done in the testator’s presence. For this purpose the presence is narrowly interpreted and it is not sufficient if the person who destroyed the will did so in another room.
If there is a later will or codicil containing no revocation clause but containing provisions which are inconsistent with another earlier will, the provisions of the earlier will which are inconsistent with the later will are considered to be revoked, but the other provisions of the earlier will remain valid, as do all the provisions of the later will.
A later will or codicil containing no revocation clause or provisions which are consistent with an earlier will does not revoke the earlier will and both the earlier will and the later document are effective so far as they are not inconsistent. Thus it is possible that there will be more than one will valid at any given time.
Revocation of a will by a new will or by a codicil
A new will or codicil which contains a clause to revoke an earlier will in its entirety, or to revoke only some of the provisions if the existing will is effective, but the new will or codicil must be signed and the testator’s signature witnessed in accordance with the formalities of making a new will or the revocation will not be effective.
Dependent relative revocation
If a testator purports to revoke a will or the appointment of an executor on the basis that a new will or new appointment which he makes is valid and this is not so, then the old will or appointment will stand and not be revoked. This rule is known in law as the doctrine of dependent relative revocation.