Thompson v. Royal
163 Va. 492, 175 S.E. 748 (1934)

  • Kroll signed a valid, enforceable will, later adding a codicil.
  • A few weeks later, she returned to her attorney and asked for the will to be destroyed.
    • The attorney did not physically destroy the will, figuring that if Kroll wanted to make a new will later, this document could be used as a draft.
    • Instead, he wrote, “this will is null and void” on the back and had Kroll sign.
  • A few months later, Kroll died, leaving no new will. Those who were mentioned in the will but who wouldn’t inherit under intestate succession, submitted the will for probate.
  • The Probate Court accepted the will. Those who stood to gain from intestate succession, appealed, claiming that the will had been revoked.
  • The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed and found the will to be valid.
    • The Virginia Supreme Court found that under Virginia State law, there are several ways to revoke a will, including:
      • Writing a subsequent will.
      • Physically destroying on defacing the will.
    • The writings on the back of the will did not deface or obliterate any part of it, and Kroll never got around to making a new will, so this one is still valid, regardless of what it says on the back.
  • The general rule was that you cannot revoke a will by written memorandum. You must physically destroy it, or write a new will that supersedes it.
    • Under the Uniform Probate Code § 2-507, you can now revoke a will by cancellation, even if said mark or cancellation doesn’t deface or obliterate the text of the will.