Process for Revoking a Will in Illinois

How to Revoke a Will in Illinois

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Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Published on
May 6, 2019

In this article, we will discuss the process for revoking your will in Illinois.  We will cover process for revoking a will, revocation through another will, revocation through writing and how to destroy a will.  Follow this process if you are looking to discard or cancel a will you have already formally filed.  To start a new will, see our article on How to Create a Will.


Process for Revoking a Will

Life changes, and you may decide that the will you created is no longer the direction you would like your estate to go in. You may want to revoke or invalidate that will in order to insure that you assets are given to the correct people in your life with as little stress as possible for your loved ones. In Illinois, there are a few ways to legally declare a will void or revoke it after it is officially documented.

  1. Forming a new will that contradicts the previous will.
  2. Forming a new will that directly declares the previous will as invalid.
  3. Destroying the original will.
  4. A signed legal document declaring the will invalid.


You may benefit from consulting an attorney when revoking your will.  An estate planning attorney will know the best options for revocation and can direct you towards the option that is most cost effective and foolproof for your needs. They can also guide you through the process of forming a new estate plan if you would like to change how your estate is divided upon your death after your previous will is invalid.

When revoking a will, be sure that you want to entirely invalidate your previous will.  You may simply want to update elements of the will such as changing beneficiaries or adding new property.  If this is the case, invalidating your will would likely be a much more complex solution to a more simple problem.  If you only wish to update your existing will, this process is not recommended for you.

How to Revoke a Will Through Creating Another Will

How to Cancel an Estate Plan in Illinois

The most common way of revoking a previous will is by establishing a new will that reflects what your current wish and assets are.  There are two ways of doing this:

  1. Creating a new will that contradicts the previous will
  2. Creating a will that directly declares the previous will invalid

When you are creating a new will to replace your previous one, it is likely because you are making significant changes to your will or estate plan.  When drafting a new will, you should include a statement declaring that you are revoking any previous wills.  You will also be including dates of filing the new will, which will be used to officially prove that the new will was created after the previous one.  Be sure to inform your attorney and trust loved ones of your new will so they will search for the updated will.  You may also want to destroy copies of the previous will to avoid confusion.  

In your new will, be sure to update any elements that may have changed between previous wills and new ones, including beneficiaries who may have passed away or disconnected and new property or assets that have been added.  You may want to compare the old will to assure you have made the changes necessary.  Be sure to consult with your attorney to assure that the new will is filed correctly.


How to Destroy a Will

Another common means of invalidating a will is through simply destroying the original.  This is usually used by those who do not want to create a new will and simply want to revoke their established will.  When destroying a will, there are a few steps to take to assure all ground is covered.  

  • Make sure you destroy all copies.  While will copies are not always accepted and an original is preferred, it is always safe to make sure every known copy of your old will is destroyed.  Check with your attorney and any loved ones who may have a copy along with the original. You may also have a copy stored at home in a safe or PO Box.  You may also want to check with the attorney used to form the will as they may be aware of whom you planned to send copies to or how many copies they made on your initial visit.

  • Make sure all copies are destroyed thoroughly.  You may be able to simply write “revoked” across every page, but judges and executors may not view that as entirely revoked.  Your best option is to thoroughly destroy all copies through shredding or burning, which will remove all possible confusion over remaining pages.

  • If someone else is destroying the will for you, assure that you give them direct permission and try to be present in the room when it is destroyed to assure your will is properly destroyed and you are a witness.

  • After you have destroyed you will, inform others that you did it.  This will inform those involved that the estate plan is changing, but it will also prove that uo intentional destroyed the will as a means to revoke it.  This will prevent people from coming forward with copies that you were unaware of.


Revoking a Will Through a Legal Document

What is a codicil?

When revoking your will through a legal document, you will be able to legally declare your will invalid without forming a new will in its place.  You can do this through writing a Codicil, a legal document that serves as an update, revision or addition to a previous document.  In this codicil, you can simply declare that the entire will is invalid or update it to invalidate only specific portions of the will.  You should follow a specific process when filing this codicil:


  1. Specifically name the will you would like to invalidate.  This is especially important if you have multiple wills and is also a protection from confusion regarding any future wills formed.
  2. Make sure you also invalidate any additions or attachments to your previous will.  If you are invalidating everything attached to your estate plan, be sure to name all the invalidated documents in you Codicil
  3. Execute the codicil as a legal document.  When executing your codicil, make sure you file it through the the typical process of filing a legal document.  This includes signing in front of witness and providing proof that you are of sound mind and aware of what you are doing.  As with any legal process, you may benefit from doing this change through an attorney.
  4. Add your codicil to the original will and all copies.  This will assure that, when you will is found, the invalidations are connected to it directly and will avoid any confusion or legal holdups.  You may also want to inform loved ones or an attorney of your change to assure that they are all aware that the previous plan is being removed.


If you are looking for an estate planning attorney in the Chicago area, or would like to schedule a consultation regarding you will or other legal matter.  We would be happy to help.  You can call us at 630-324-6666, email at info@oflaherty-law.com, or visit our website, OFlaherty-Law.com.


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