How does Marriage and Divorce affect a Will?

If you are one of the 46% of UK adults who has prepared a Will then congratulations – you’ve done the right thing.  But what will happen to your Will if you get married or divorced?  In this article we look at the impact and what steps you may need to take. 

Wills after Marriage or Civil Partnership

When you get married (or enter into a civil partnership), the default situation is that any Will you have previously made is no longer valid.  The only exception is where it specifically states that it was made in the “contemplation of marriage” and names your future husband or wife; otherwise, a new Will has to be made. 

This cancelling of your old Will makes sense for most people as it was written before you met your new partner won’t leave any of your assets to them.  Cancelling your old Will means that if you die your assets will automatically go to your new spouse or civil partner which will be the preference in most cases.  We would of course still recommend putting in place new Wills for both of you to take care of any specific wishes you have, such as gifts to others, guardianship of children and so on.

If for some reason you would like your old Will to stand, it is possible to “republish” it after you are married, to confirm it is still valid.

Wills after Divorce

Divorce or dissolution of a Civil Partnership has a very different effect on your Will.  Instead of being invalidated, the Will is read as though your former Spouse had died on the date the divorce was finalised.  This means that any appointment or gifts to them are no longer effective and will instead be distributed to your other beneficiaries.

Practically speaking you may not need to change your Will on divorce, but you should definitely check it over.  Make sure that the right beneficiaries are now getting your assets, that appointments of guardians and/or executors still work for you and that any substitution clauses relating to gifts of property or other assets reflect your wishes.

A really important point to bear in mind is that the “death” of your spouse in your Will only takes effect when your divorce is finalised and the Decree Absolute is issued.  In practice there could be months or even years between deciding to split up and the divorce finalising.  During that time you will start a new life, probably move house and may find a new partner.  Despite this, your existing Will remains valid and your existing spouse will be appointed and receive any gifts to them – which could be the whole of your estate.  Furthermore, any property held in joint names as joint tenants (for example, your home) would pass automatically to your Spouse by the right of survivorship. 

Of course the easiest solution to this problem is to make a new Will as soon as you split up but very few people realise this and take that step.

If you are getting married or divorced and would like to find out more on how this will affect your Will then our expert team are here to help.  Contact us today to book a free 30 minute consultation with one of our Private Client or Family solicitors.

The Backhouse Solicitors Team

Tel: 01245 893400
Email: [email protected]
Visit: 71 Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1JU (Currently only for pre-booked appointments)

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