Changing or Cancelling a Will

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Stephen Hsia in January 2019.

You can change your will after you’ve prepared it[edit]

You should consider updating your will whenever your circumstances or wishes change. You can prepare a new will at any time. Or you can change the existing one by signing a separate document, called a codicil.

To be legal, the codicil has to meet the same requirements as a will. For example, it must be in writing, dated, and signed by you and two witnesses. You don’t have to use the same two witnesses you used for your will. The codicil must refer to the will (and previous codicils) it’s amending.

You can cancel your will[edit]

You can revoke, that is cancel, your will. You could simply destroy the original will, with the intention of cancelling it. However, it is better to make a written declaration revoking your will. This document must be signed the same way you signed your will — by you with two witnesses looking on, and signing it themselves.

A new will normally cancels any previous will. Even so, it’s common practice to include a revocation clause at the beginning of a will:

“I hereby revoke all my prior wills and codicils.”

Getting married or divorced[edit]

Neither marriage nor divorce of the will-maker cancels a will. The exception is if you married before March 31, 2014 (after which, there was a change in the law), and made a will before you got married. The law says your will would have been cancelled when you got married, unless the will said it was made in contemplation of your marriage.

If you had a spouse at the time you made your will, and later separated from your spouse, your will is treated as if your spouse died before you. That is, any gift you left them will not be effective. As well, if you named your ex-spouse as your executor, the appointment would no longer be effective.

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