With many couples having had to delay their nuptial due to the pandemic, the next 18 months is set to be a busy time for weddings. Conversely, following the pandemic and the resulting national lockdowns, there has been a reported increase in the number of couples separating and divorcing.
As two major events in life, marriage and divorce can have a significant impact on our life, but also the way our finances and assets would be distributed in the event of our death. The consequences of failing to update or make a will to reflect marriage or divorce can sometimes be unexpected and unwanted.
Here we take a closer look.
It is not always appreciated that upon entering into a marriage or civil partnership, any previous will that may have been in place becomes invalid. Until the point that a new will is made, the rules of intestacy would apply in the event of death. The law would therefore dictate who would stand to inherit from an estate and in what proportions, and determines who is entitled to deal with the testator’s estate. This is particularly important for those getting married in later life, or those with children from previous relationships, as it is unlikely that the rules of intestacy would allow for an estate to be distributed as you might expect or want.
The only circumstances in which this wouldn’t apply is if a will is made in anticipation of marriage or civil partnership, and therefore specifies what would happen following the legal union.
It is just as important to consider what would happen to your estate after divorce or the ending of a civil partnership. Despite the legal change in status, a divorce does not revoke a will that is in place. Instead, where the divorced partner is named in the will, it is treated as if they had passed away, and the rules of intestacy therefore apply to that proportion of a will. As many couples plan to leave the majority of their assets to their wife/husband/civil partner, this would leave a large proportion of the estate open to be divided according the intestacy rules. As such, your estate may not be divided up in the way you would want.
It is also important to note what would happen in the event that you passed away prior to a divorce being finalised. In these circumstances, any will that was made during marriage or civil partnership will still stand, which would mean that despite being separated, your legal spouse would still inherit in the proportion outlined in your will.
Making a new will helps to ensure that your up to date wishes are allowed for, including provision for your new partner (if you have one) and any/all of your children.
In addition to remembering to update your will following marriage, divorce, or any other significant life event or change in circumstances, it is always worth considering a review at least every 3 to 5 years. This allows you to ensure that your Will still reflects your wishes at that time and also allows for any changes in the law that may have occurred.
Jill Waddington is a solicitor specialising in private client law at O’Donnell Solicitors. Please contact Jill Waddington on 01457 761320 to arrange a convenient appointment to discuss any aspect of your will or planning for your future.