How can marriage or divorce affect your Will?

So you already have an up-to-date Will in place, that is great; too many people don’t.

However, have you considered how it might be affected by marriage or divorce?

The impact of marriage

Preparing to get married is an exciting time (at least that’s how I remember it 12 years on) that involves lots of planning.

However, it also means that once you are married, any Will that you or your new spouse have in place will automatically be revoked.

Therefore, it is worth sitting down with your partner to review your plans and prepare new Wills. This is particularly important if you intend to leave assets to someone other than each other, e.g. children or grandchildren.

If you do not draw up a new Will after you marry, the rules of intestacy will kick in which means that your assets could be distributed in a way which is not in line with your wishes.

According to latest data from the Office of National Statistics, there were 245,513 marriages and 107,071 divorces in England and Wales in 2017.

What happens to my Will if I get divorced?

In the case of divorce, your Will will still be valid. However, if  your ex-partner was an executor, then their role will automatically be cancelled.

In addition, your Will would be treated from a technical perspective as if your former spouse had died on the date the decree became absolute, and therefore the rules of intestacy will apply to the share they would have received.

With that in mind, here are a few factors that you would need to consider:

Beneficiaries: If your ex-spouse was entitled to any of your estate in your Will then you will need to appoint new beneficiaries.

Executors:  If your ex-spouse was sole executor of your will then you will need to appoint a new one.

In general, it is best to appoint more than one executor. An executor must be over 18 years of age and can also be a beneficiary if you wish.

Whether to include your ex-spouse: You can still leave assets to your ex-spouse should you choose. If you have a financial obligation to them then you should take this into account when writing your new Will to limit the success of a claim being made by them after your death.

Inheritance Tax: During your marriage, your spouse would have been exempt from Inheritance Tax (IHT) on your full estate in the event of your death (assuming they were UK domiciled; you can read more about the implications of passing assets to a Polish spouse here).

However, your estate now only has a tax-free limit of GBP325,000 (plus Residence Nil Rate Band which is GBP125,000 in tax year 2018/2019) unless you remarry.

What happens to my Will if I remarry?

This is similar to the situation when you marry for the first time. If you marry again your Will will be revoked and your estate will be divided under the rules of intestacy unless you draw up a new one.