Does my will change when I get married?

When advising clients on the best Will set up for them, marital status can have a significant impact on the advice that is given. It is vitally important that people understand the implications of this planning at each stage of their lifetime relationships.

In this blog, I will explain the considerations for different relationship status’s and how this would affect the will planning that a couple or individual may do.

Engaged couples

If a couple is engaged or planning to get married to their current partner at some time in the future, they should still make a will if they would like everything to pass to one another if one of them were to pass away first.

As a will writer, I may advise clients in this situation to include a ‘contemplation of marriage clause’ in their wills. If a couple get married or enter into a civil partnership without this clause, the will is automatically revoked and the person would die intestate if they failed to make another will after the marriage or civil partnership. Dying ‘intestate’ means a person dies without leaving a valid will and in this case executors and beneficiaries would be appointed by the laws of intestacy, which fall down a certain family line and may not be at all what clients would choose.

For the contemplation of marriage clause to be effective, it must name the specific person to which the testator (person making the will) intends to marry and therefore can’t be a general clause for someone currently single who is hoping to meet someone and marry in the future.

Recently married couples

When I am reviewing planning with clients who have got married since they made their last will, it is always advised that they check their previous will/s for contemplation of marriage clause to ensure the wills are still valid. If the clause wasn’t drafted in their pre-marriage will then it would be invalid.

I would always advise clients to review any previous wills to ensure that the wills still reflect their wishes and current circumstances, and particularly if they have had children together.

Separated Couples

If a client has separated from their spouse but is not yet divorced, I would advise they consider updating their will to remove their spouse, or perhaps reduce their share of the estate for the time being. It may be that the client would rather their estate goes to their children in the first instance rather than the spouse they are separated from.

If anything were to happen to a client in this instance before they finalised a divorce, their estate would be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules which are heavily weighted in a spouse’s favour and this may not be at all what the client wants.

Divorced Couples

There is often a lot of confusion when it comes to divorced couples and existing will planning. Therefore, it is important to understand that divorce doesn’t revoke a will in its entirety, but it would be interpreted as if the spouse has pre-deceased the client, so this effectively means any reference to the spouse within the will is not valid. Importantly here, if a client does still wish for their spouse to receive a share in their estate even after the divorce is finalised, then this would need to be entered into their will to make it effective.

Hopefully this blog will have highlighted the importance of reviewing any existing will planning once there is a change in relationship status, or, will make it clear that people should have a will in place if they want the right person to receive their assets on their death.

Please contact our dedicated Legal Adviser, Sophie Vines, to obtain any necessary advice or to get a will in place. Email or call our office on: 01472 694569.