How does a change in relationship status change your Will?
Many people are unaware that changes in their relationship status can change the validity of their Will. Entering into a marriage or civil partnership can invalidate your Will so it is important to keep your Will up to date to take account of any changes in circumstances.
What happens to a Will when you get married or join in a Civil Partnership?
Marriage is a significant occasion for everyone and making a new Will is often not a priority at what is usually a busy time. However, it is vital to consider the legal implications of your marriage and civil partnership and to think about your Will and the impact of your changing relationship status.
When you get married, your existing Will is no longer valid, unless it includes a special reference to the intended marriage. If you don’t make a new Will then you will die ‘intestate’. ‘Intestacy’ is the term used to describe the estate (property, cash, investments, valuable belongings etc.) of someone who doesn’t have a Will.
The intestacy rules will determine how and amongst who your assets are divided. In this instance, your entire estate would normally go to your wife, husband or civil partner. For several reasons this may not be what you’d like to happen, which is why making a new Will upon marriage is so important.
Updating your Will when you remarry
If you remarry, your Will is treated in the same way as it would be the previous time you married, it automatically becomes void, and the Intestacy rules apply. It’s advisable to write a new Will as quickly as possible upon remarrying. Particularly if you have children from a previous marriage and in your current relationship.
If you don’t make a new Will it could cause future distress to your children and your spouse, particularly if your main asset is your family home and your new spouse lives in it with you.
If you die without a Will, your new spouse will inherit the first £270,000 of your estate plus 50% of the remainder, with the other 50% being split equally between any children you have (from your current or previous marriage).
This is why it’s essential to get your affairs in order when you remarry so that any children or other beneficiaries are clearly provided for in your Will.
What to do with your Will if you divorce
Divorce can impact your Will in a slightly different way, although it will not fully revoke it. Your ex-spouse will not be able to benefit from your Will nor can they be an executor or a trustee.
Your ex-spouse will essentially be treated as though they pre-deceased you. This means that once a Decree Absolute has been issued, anything your ex-spouse was set to inherit would be passed on under your Will to other named beneficiaries as stipulated.
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, under the intestacy rules. This is why it’s essential to make changes and review the options properly if you are divorcing.
Is a Will valid if a couple are separated?
If you separate from your spouse but remain legally married, then your Will is valid. Your spouse will be legally entitled to inherit your assets as set out in your Will. Sadly, many family disputes regarding inheritance are a result of couples separating but not updating their Wills. Therefore, it’s key to update your Will if you’re separated from your partner rather than wait until a possible reconciliation or divorce takes place.
Specialist legal advice
If you would like to know more about how to write or review a Will, our friendly team of specialist Wills solicitors are here and ready to help. Please call 0117 906 9400, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use our contact form.