Every year there are hundreds of thousands of marriages and sadly, as we know only too well as family lawyers, a large number of divorces too. Despite these unions and separations, there is often a lack of understanding amongst the general public about what happens to an existing Will when a person marries, enters into a civil partnership or gets divorced. Many will not have a Will at all, despite these significant life changes.
Life is constantly changing and so should your Will. A large number of people in the UK do not have a Will and whilst it can sometimes take a key life event to make a person consider the financial implications of their death (such as a health scare, buying a home or getting married or divorced) it is important to do so not just once but throughout your lifetime.
What happens if I have a Will and get married /enter into a civil partnership?
- If you have written a Will prior to your marriage / civil partnership it will be automatically revoked once the marriage takes place (unless it was written in clear anticipation of the marriage). You will therefore need to write a new Will. If you do not, and you die whilst married then you will die ‘intestate’ and the standard rules of what should happen to your money and property will apply to your estate.
- It is important to note that if you have a Will written in a foreign country prior to your marriage, it is important to take legal advice as to whether that Will be revoked the same way as an English Will would be.
What happens if I have a Will but get divorced / my civil partnership is dissolved?
- If you write a Will during your marriage/civil partnership and subsequently get divorced, your Will is not automatically revoked by the divorce/dissolution. Rather, your former spouse/civil partner is taken to have died on the date of the decree absolute. This means that if your former spouse/civil partner is the executor or a trustee then that appointment will not take effect which may cause your Will to be invalid.
- The best thing to do is to write a new Will immediately or preferably after you separate, but before decree absolute is granted. It is best to do this as early as possible because if you were to die mid-proceedings, you would still be legally married to that person and they may inherit your estate. If you are divorcing that is not likely to be your intention.
What happens if you die without a Will?
The assets you have spent a lifetime building up will be distributed in a strict order, known as the intestacy rules. Essentially your relatives will inherit in a set priority order and ultimately, if you have no relatives, your assets will pass to the Crown.
If you do not have a Will, it does not matter that you live with or have a long-term partner, or even a fiancé. It is irrelevant that you have fallen out with your relatives, or simply do not know them and it does not matter that you would prefer your assets to pass to charity rather than the Crown.
Unless you have put a valid Will in place, your wishes and personal circumstances are irrelevant – your estate will pass in accordance with the strict intestacy rules and it is therefore critical to put a Will in place to protect your loved ones and the causes which are close to your heart.
What happens if I am married and have children but I don’t have a Will at all?
Many people wrongly assume that even without a Will in place their spouse or civil partner will automatically inherit. In fact, when you have children, you are only entitled to £270,000 and half of the balance with the other half passing to the children of the deceased. Cleary this could leave your spouse or civil partner in a very difficult financial position, especially if your children are very young and cannot legally ‘give up’ their inheritance to help their, now widowed, mother or father.
5 reasons why you should write a Will:
- You decide who should benefit and in what proportions.
- You decide who will take care of your minor children by naming guardians.
- You can choose the age at which your children should inherit (many deem 18 years to be too young).
- You decide who to name as trustees, to look after your assets until the beneficiaries reach the relevant age at which you want them to inherit.
- Wills can also be drafted to include protective trusts to ring-fence assets if you have concerns about any of the beneficiaries (e.g. due to the risk of inheritance being lost to creditors or in divorce settlements).
How to make your Will legally valid
In order for a Will to be valid, it must signed by the person putting it in place, in the presence of two independent witnesses who must also sign the Will. Your witnesses must be over the age of 18 and they should not be related to you, nor named within the Will as beneficiaries.
How much does it cost?
Wills do not have to be expensive.
At KKSmith Wills, the current charge for a pair of straight-forward Wills and for the provision of the associated advice, including information about inheritance tax is £350 in total, or £250 for a single straight-forward Will.
If you would like to speak to Katie about drafting a Will please contact her on: email@example.com or 07828 540576.
If you have a family law query please do contact Chloë Ashman on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01727 734260.
During the current Coronaviris crisis, appointments with Rayden Solicitors and KKSmith Wills can be done over whichever video conferencing platform is preferable.