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Marriage & Divorce and how these affect your will

12 March 2019

Sarah Spencer

It is important to make sure your will is still going to take effect in the that manner you intended.

Marriage or Civil Partnership can be a busy time. Some people don’t realise that marriage revokes a Will. This means your Will is automatically cancelled and becomes void.

Some may own certain assets jointly with others whom are not married. These assets may not pass to your intended beneficiary. You can prepare a will in contemplation of marriage to start should your wish contain assets to be dealt with a certain way even once you get married.

If you do update your will after you marry, any existing will is cancelled and becomes no longer valid. If you do not make a new one, then when you die the law of intestacy decides how you assets are distributed. Usually, your entire estate would go to your wife, husband or civil partner. The intestacy rules do not necessarily mean that a surviving spouse would inherit everything. How much a spouse inherits depends on what other family members there are. It is therefore essential to take advice to ensure that your wishes are met.

Irrespective of who you want to leave your assets to it is vital that you have a professionally drafted Will to ensure that you have addressed all issues and made things as simple as possible for those you leave behind.

What happens to my will after divorce?

In the UK, if you make a Will while married and then get divorced, your divorce can have a direct impact on the terms of your Will. While your Will would remain valid, your ex-spouse would no longer be able to benefit from it unless you have openly expressed otherwise. They would no longer be permitted to act as an Executor or Trustee of your Estate.

Once a decree absolute has been issued, anything that you have gifted to your ex-spouse in your Will would be dealt with as if they had died on the date that your marriage legally ended. As a result, whatever they were set to inherit would then be passed onto the next beneficiary who is entitled to it, and in accordance with the terms of the Will. If everything had been left to your spouse, with no other beneficiaries named, then your Estate would be dealt with as if you had died without a valid Will in place at all, this is known as ‘dying intestate’.

The law will decide who inherits what from you, this is known as the ‘Rules of intestacy’. These are strict rules that place relatives in order of priority and sometimes don’t provide for modern family relationships. If this happens, there is a risk that your estate could end up being distributed in the way that you would have wanted.

Who will act as an Executor?

If your Will named your ex-spouse as an Executor, this will also be cancelled after a Decree-Absolute has been issued. If your Will named more than one Executor, then the other Executors named would still be able to act. If your Will only named your ex as an Executor, then an alternative would be appointed by the Court. This will usually be a friend or family member.

What happens to my will after separation?

If you separate from your spouse but you are still legally married, then your Will remains valid and your spouse will be entitled to inherit as set out in the Will. If you don’t want your spouse to benefit from your Estate on your death, but you are not legally divorced, then it is important to make a new will that reflects your current circumstances and states your new wishes.

What happens to My Will if I Remarry?

If you remarry, your original Will is revoked in its entirety, unless you have expressly stated in the Will that you do not want this to happen. If you have made a Will “in contemplation of marriage”, naming the person you intend to marry, then your Will won’t be revoked when you tie the knot. However, if there is no mention of the intended marriage in your Will then this will automatically be revoked at the time that you marry. If you die without putting a new Will in place, then your Estate will be dealt with as if you had died Intestate, and everything you own will be distributed in line with the Rules of Intestacy. This will usually stipulate that everything goes to your spouse.

How can I prepare?

If you are in the process of getting a divorce, or if you are divorced and you’re planning to remarry, then it’s important to understand the impact that this will have on your existing Will. It may need to be updated to ensure that your wishes are consistent with the law and clear about how you want your Estate to be distributed.

Our expert team can help advise you about all your concerns. 

For more information about how marriage and divorce can affect your Will or would like any other Wills & Probate advice, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team on: 

Sheffield - 0114 272 1884

Doncaster - 01302 341 414

alternatively you can email on probate@taylorbracewell.co.uk