Valentines Day is soon to be upon us – a typically ‘Marmite’ day for most. Social media users love to post statuses and photos of the gifts and cards they have received, or to moan that the day is just another ‘money making’ scheme.
Instead of updating your Facebook status, why not think about your relationship status and whether you need to update your Will!?
Did you know that marriage, separation and divorce all have a different affect on your Will?
Many people don’t realise, or it doesn’t even cross their mind, that when they get married, their existing Will automatically becomes invalid – unless you have a correctly worded clause in your Will specifically stating that it will not be revoked on marriage to a named person. These Wills are only valid on “contemplation of Marriage” to a named person.
If you do not make a new Will after you marry, when you die the intestacy rules will apply and decide how your assets are divided upon your death. This is unlikely to be how you want things to be for a number of reasons, so you should make a Will once you are married.
Many married couples separate and move on with their lives with new partners, but don’t bother divorcing, sometimes because of the cost involved or because they are still on good terms, etc.
The Will made during your marriage will still stand, regardless of your new life with your new partner. If your spouse was named as a beneficiary or trustee; then this is what they remain. If you want your new partner to be your beneficiary or trustee, or you just want to ensure that your spouse is no longer the beneficiary or trustee, you should update your Will.
Getting divorced does not revoke your Will. However, all clauses in your Will naming your former spouse as a beneficiary will no longer be valid. Your former spouse will also no longer be able to act as an executor for you and they will not be entitled to apply for Grant of Probate. Your ex spouse is treated as having died on the date of the marriage dissolution, and any gift to them will pass under the Intestacy Rules.
You may have children with your ex-spouse and still want them appointed for the benefit of your children; it is therefore important to make a new will after your divorce, especially if your ex-spouse was a beneficiary or trustee.
What types of Will are available?
A Simple Will
Typically a 'Simple Will' will work for you if:
• you have a spouse or partner and your entire estate is left to them
• you have no spouse or partner and your entire estate is left to your children in equal shares
• you do not have a spouse, partner or children and your entire estate is left to another individual or organisation, or a group of individuals or organisations in equal shares
• you would like to leave a legacy to a charity
• the value of your estate does not exceed £325,000
A 'Mirror Will' is where each partner agrees to distribute his or her estate (except for special gifts) to their surviving spouse/partner. If the surviving spouse/partner dies or you and your spouse/partner die together then the estate will pass to your children in equal shares. If there are no children, then it will pass to other beneficiaries in equal shares. When a Mirror Will is made, the makers of these Wills acknowledge that the surviving spouse/partner has the right to change his or her Will.
Your personal situation may mean your requirements fall outside the scope of a Simple Will. For example it could be that you:
• are in a second marriage or partnership with possible disagreement over the treatment of your children from a previous marriage(s)
• have dependents or children that have disabilities and therefore specific instructions are required for their care
• have a complex estate that includes businesses or property abroad
• want to leave gifts or legacies to more than a few beneficiaries or not in equal shares
• have children that you do not support
• are appointing a guardian for your children, where trusts need to be arranged
• want to disinherit a close family member
This is not an exhaustive list and individual families and estates can have very different requirements.
A specialist member of our team would be happy to discuss your particular needs and prepare a Will that suits your circumstances.
About the Author
Sarah Wright is a Chartered Legal Executive within our Serious Injury Team.
Sarah, who joined the business in 2008, has extensive practical experience handling personal injury cases including road traffic and credit hire claims. Sarah was admitted as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives in 2014 and assists the Serious Injury Team on a diverse range of cases including road traffic accidents, employers’ liability, occupiers’ liability, criminal injuries and medical negligence.