Keeping in mind the fact that most wills begin with the declaration that this is "the last will and testament" of its maker as well as all the other related formalities and requisites for its validity, such as the required presence of witnesses during its execution, may well create the misleading impression that a will as such is a rather inflexible legal instrument. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a will as a legal document is a rather rare exception to the idea that a signatory of any document is thus bound by such a signature.

The truth is that a will is indeed one of the most flexible legal documents you may sign in your entire lifetime. For according to the relevant law in Cyprus a will may freely be revoked subsequent to its execution (i.e. the actual making of a will). For example, by a subsequent will expressly revoking the former one. Or, even burning, or tearing or in any other way destroying a will without in fact making a new will.

Nor is there any limitation period to this possibility. The testator (i.e. the maker of the will) is free to change his mind and either revoke a will altogether or make a new one in its place. Thus, even though a will does in fact contain the final instructions of the testator as to the fate of the estate, such instructions may be altered later if the testator has a change of mind.

In effect, rather paradoxically there is no finality as such in this seemingly most final of legal documents. Thus, if a person is contemplating making a will yet is rather reluctant to be bound by its contents, it is worth keeping in mind that a will is not a binding contract either for its maker or for the heirs of such a person or for any beneficiary of such a will while the testator is alive. As a legal document a will only becomes effective upon the occurrence of the event for which it was drafted.

Even then the wishes of the testator may not in fact be possible to fulfil. For example, this may occur if the testator disposes by will a part of the estate in excess of the disposable portion. The disposable portion is that part of the property of the testator that he may dispose of by will. Or, if the property disposed of by will is no longer available once the will comes into effect.

A will may also be revoked independently of the maker's intentions, through the operation of the applicable law. This occurs in the following situations. First, in case a testator marries after the execution of the will and second, by the birth of a child to the testator after the execution of the will, if at the time of the making of the will the testator had no children. However, neither such marriage or birth shall be deemed to revoke a will if by examining the contents of the will it appears that in fact the will was made in contemplation of such a marriage or birth.

Originally published 12 May 2020.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.