Married, Separated, Divorced? What does it mean for your Will?
With uncertain times upon us, the Law Society has reported a 30% increase in demand for the creation of Wills in the last month. While it’s encouraging to see people getting their affairs in order, a third of adults* in the UK still don’t realise that a change in relationship status could have a significant impact on their Will and what happens to their assets when they die.
What happens to your Will when you get married?
While sadly many couples have had to postpone large wedding gatherings for the time-being, ceremonies with reduced numbers and even over zoom are still going ahead. Whether your wedding has been delayed or is taking place imminently, using some of your time at home to think about your Will and what the impact of your changing relationship status means for you could prove invaluable in the future.
When you get married, your existing Will is no longer valid, unless it includes a special reference to the intended marriage.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.
Remarriage & your Will
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, it will not fully revoke it. However, 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.
Separation & your Will
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 and not wait until a possible reconciliation or divorce takes place.
Wills and Covid-19
If you are concerned about how to write or amend your Will with the current social distancing measures in place, please rest assured that this is still possible when following the correct procedures. To find out more about this, please visit our previous blog which details how to do this.
Specialist Wills solicitors
If you would like to know more about how to write or review a Will at this time, our friendly team of specialist Wills solicitors are here and ready to help. Please call 0117 906 9400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*source: Royal London Insurance research, April 2020