Gold diggers exploiting legal loophole to wed vulnerable elderly

This week The Times has reported on the concerning issue arising whereby, MPs say, “gold diggers” are exploiting a legal loophole by marrying vulnerable elderly people and later inheriting their estates despite not being beneficiaries in a will. 

Campaigners will sponsor a 10 minute rule bill in Parliament this week that would potentially legislate to “stop putting marriages before wills”.  They say that reform is urgently needed as the population ages and cases of dementia rise, leading to unscrupulous suitors marrying vulnerable people knowing that they will be deemed mentally incapable of drafting an updated will.

This brings to light the importance of making a will that reflects your wishes and implications upon marriage and divorce.

Making a will before marriage

 Making a will is especially important if you are not already married.  As an unmarried partner, your partner may not have a say in important subjects such as funeral arrangements and the distribution of your estate.  By and large your partner will not receive anything unless they are on extraordinarily good terms with your family, or they are prepared to launch costly and draining court proceedings against your family to ensure that they receive “reasonable financial provision”.  Making a will is a much more reliable way to ensure that a partner is provided for.

Making a will on marriage

 It should be noted that a will made before a lawful marriage or civil partnership is automatically revoked by that marriage or civil partnership.

It is therefore strongly suggested to make a new will as a married couple or civil partners.  Married couples and civil partners may leave everything to one partner and be exempt from inheritance tax.  Without a will, the rules around intestacy are complex, differing between the regions of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Making a will during divorce and separation period

 During the divorce and separation period, your legal partner will probably still be your will’s main executor and your will’s main beneficiary.  This may not be what you want anymore, especially if you are parting on bad terms.  For this reason alone, it is important to rewrite a will during the separation period.

After divorce

 Once a divorce has been finalised, any previous will is still largely valid, therefore if you have not already done so during the separation, it is important to rewrite it, as it may no longer reflect your wishes. Additionally, the decree absolute means that the appointment of a former spouse as an executor, trustee or guardian or a bequest to them in your will is likely to be invalid, so this will need to be updated.  

Remarrying

 On remarrying, any previous will becomes void unless it is a will made in contemplation of marriage or civil partnership to a specific person.

Rayden Solicitors are a specialist Family Law firm and if you require any assistance of any aspect of Family Law, particularly divorce and relationship breakdown please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialists on 01727 734260.

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