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What effects does a subsequent will have on an old will?

Sometimes, after having previously made a will, a person will make a new will. A question a person may have in such a situation is: What effect does the new will have on the old will? 

Here in Massachusetts, there are multiple rules state law has addressing this issue.

One of these rules regards express revocation. If the new will contains express language revoking the old will or part of it, it will revoke the old will (or part of it) under the terms of this express language.

Under state law, if a new will does not contain express language that revokes the old will, the new will's effect on the old will is dictated by the intent of the person who formed the will. If they intended the new will to be a total replacement to the old will, the old will will be completely revoked by the new will. If, however, they instead intended the new will to be a supplement to the old will, the new will will only revoke the parts of the old will that are inconsistent with the terms of the new will.

There are some presumptions state law sets for courts to use when it comes to determining what a will former's intent was in this sort of situation. If a complete disposition of the will former's estate is made by the new will, the presumption is that the will former's intent was for the new will to be a total replacement to the old will. If, however, a will does not make such a complete disposition, the presumption is that the will former's intent was for the new will to only be a supplement to the old will. These presumptions can be rebutted by evidence.

As this illustrates, what effects a new will has on an old will can be affected by many different things. Thus, when a person with a will forms a new will, it can be very important for them to understand what things can impact what the new will will do to the old will and to take steps to ensure that the new will's effect on the old will does in fact match their wishes. Attorneys can provide guidance to individuals who are forming a subsequent will when it comes to these issues. 

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