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What effect does my marriage or divorce have on my Will?

View profile for Caroline Johnstone
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Many people do not realise but a marriage automatically revokes any existing Will, meaning that a person could die intestate without realising it.  Caroline Johnstone, Private Client Lawyer, here explains the implications that marriage and divorce have on a Will, and what steps you need to take to avoid any issues for your family’s future.

Marriage and your Will

If a person marries and has not made a Will subsequent to their marriage, at the time of their death instead of it simply reverting to any previous Will, their estate will be treated as if they did not have a Will at all.  Caroline begins, “Dying intestate means that if there is a surviving spouse and children then the surviving spouse will automatically inherit the first £250,000 of the estate and the rest will be split between the surviving spouse and any children.  If there are no children, the spouse will receive everything, which may not be what the deceased intended.”

If a couple wishes to update their Wills prior to the marriage, there are clauses that can be added to the Will in anticipation or contemplation of getting married.  “If a couple decides to do this, the Will must be specific in order to be valid, and must detail each individual person by name,” continues Caroline.   “In our experience it can be simpler to update your Will after your wedding to ensure validity and avoid any possible revocation.”

Divorce and your Will

Unlike a marriage, a divorce does not make a Will invalid or void, but if not updated a former spouse would be considered as deceased on the date the decree became absolute.  Therefore the gift made to them under the Will would fall back to the other beneficiaries. 

“This becomes a problem if you have not updated your Will after your divorce but left everything to your spouse with no further provision,” explains Caroline.  “In this situation, as with a marriage, your estate is treated as if you died intestate.  Further complications arise if your former spouse was made an executor or trustee.”

The consequences of not updating a Will after marriage or divorce can lead to family disputes after a person’s death, which is something everyone will want to avoid for their family’s sake at an already emotional time.  The majority of issues arise when a person is re-marrying and does not realise that their existing Will is revoked by the marriage. 

Life Interest Trust Wills

One way to secure the financial future for children from a previous marriage is through a Life Interest Trust Will.  “This form of Will ensures that your new spouse can, for example, live in your property for the remainder of their life, but that your children from your previous marriage will still be provided for on your death,” concludes Caroline.  “We would always recommend updating your Will after any life-changing event, whether that is getting married, divorced, or if you have children or grandchildren.  Making appropriate plans for your future will be daunting and sometimes complex, so it’s important you seek legal advice to ensure all options are explored and the most suitable Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Trusts are in place for your own situation.”

If you would like to find out more about updating your Will, or Life Interest Trust Wills, you can contact Caroline or the Private Client team on 01329 222075 or email privateclientenquiry@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.