How does marriage or divorce affect a Will?

The impact of marriage or divorce on the validity of a Will

We look at the frequently asked question, ‘How does marriage or divorce affect a Will?’

Whie it is likely that consideration of your Will will not be high on your list of priorities when you are planning your wedding day, it is worth bearing in mind the impact of marriage / civil partnership [and likewise divorce] on your Will, and how this could potentially cause inheritance problems for you in the future.

Under the Wills Act, if a person already has a Will when they get married, then that Will shall be automatically revoked once the marriage (or civil partnership) takes place. This often leads to couples inadvertently invalidating their Wills without appreciating that they have done so. If they don’t then make another Will before they pass away, they will be deemed to have died intestate and the rules of intestacy shall determine how their estate will be distributed.

It is possible to get around this by including a clause in your Will to the effect that if you are expecting to be married (or forming a civil partnership) with a particular person, then your Will shall not be revoked by your impending marriage; thereby reflecting your contemplation of marriage.

It is therefore advisable to keep the impact of marriage on a Will in mind, and to seek legal advice and update your Will as soon as possible after your marriage or civil partnership.

If a spouse or civil partner passes away and their Will or intestacy fails to make provision for their spouse then it may be possible to bring a claim against their estate. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 enables a spouse or civil partner to bring a claim against their loved one’s estate for financial provision.

The impact of divorce upon a Will is different. If a couple divorce, then any Will that they have previously made is not automatically revoked; so the Will remains valid.

It is therefore important for any divorcees to consider whether they should update their Will especially if the Will includes provisions for their ex-spouse.

Separated spouses and civil partners whose divorce has not yet been finalised are also eligible to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. For the purpose of the Act where a divorce has not been finalised by a decree absolute the separated spouse or civil partner will be treated as eligible within the same category as a spouse or civil partner.

The impact of marriage and divorce on any death in service benefits, pensions or life insurance policies should also be considered. Often an expression of wishes is made to nominate a beneficiary for these benefits. These benefits often fall outside the estate to be distributed and will instead pass directly to the nominated beneficiary, regardless of what is in the Will.

Marriage and divorce do not change these expressions of wishes, so you should ensure they are kept up to date with your life events.

If you would like further guidance on the question, ‘How does marriage or divorce affect a Will’, or you think you may have a contentious probate claim arising from any of these issues then please contact our free legal helpline.

Call 0333 888 0407 or send an email to us at [email protected]

How does marriage or divorce affect a Will?