A topic that we are frequently asked about (in both a contentious and non-contentious context) is the effect that marriage has on a will and it is worrying how many people are unaware that marriage does in fact revoke a will, unless of course the will has been properly drafted in contemplation of marriage.
Many people have their will written and expect that the wishes that they have outlined will stand come what may. But the truth is that every time your circumstances change, you should review your will to check it is still going to fulfil your wishes and meet the needs of your loved ones.
Marriage has a major impact on your will. When you marry, your will is automatically revoked, meaning it is immediately cancelled.
Therefore, if you don’t make a new will after marriage, your assets will be divided according to the rules of intestacy, which usually results in all, or the majority, of the estate going to your spouse. This may of course not be what you had planned or hoped for.
With the rise in blended families and increasingly complex family situations, this can cause serious problems.
Imagine for example that a man has two children from his first marriage before he is widowed. The children are named as the main beneficiaries in his will, but he remarries and fails to create a new will. The new spouse would inherit the first £270,000 under the intestacy rules, along with half of the remaining estate, leaving his children with little or nothing.
It is possible to insert wording into your will to prevent its invalidity on marriage, but if this hasn’t been done, it is vital that a new will is created to ensure that your estate is distributed as you would wish.
It is not just married people who are at risk if they do not have an up-to-date will. We also see unmarried couples who have children and have been together for many years.
They wrongly believe that because they have a shared home, finances and children, they will be treated as if they were married with each inheriting from the other if anything were to happen to one of them.
However, this is not how intestacy works. If a couple is unmarried and they have no wills, their children would inherit everything on reaching the age of 18, with the surviving partner not provided for at all. He or she would be faced with deciding whether or not to embark on extremely expensive litigation with a view to seeking an order from the court that they be provided for.
My advice would be simple and clear: make sure you’ve got a valid will, written by an expert solicitor and take the time to review and update that will every two to three years or whenever your circumstances change significantly – for example divorce, marriage, the birth of children or grandchildren, or if you have a major change in your financial situation.
Not only will this give you the peace of mind that your estate will be distributed as you wish, but it could save your loved ones the time and cost associated with seeking an interest in your estate at what will already be a very emotional time in their lives.
For advice on the contents of your will please contact our private wealth team on 01782 205000 or if you are in a situation where you have not been provided for but believe you ought to have been (either on an intestacy or as a result of a person’s will), please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01782 205000.