Legally speaking, how does marriage and divorce affect your will

In this blog we will look at how marriage and divorce affects your will from a legal standpoint. Not knowing the legal implications could have a real impact on your estate.

Marriage

Upon marriage, your Will is automatically ‘revoked’. This means that any Will made prior to that marriage is effectively cancelled and if you died suddenly, it would have the effect of you essentially dying intestate (without a Will). This is because your legal position has changed and upon marrying you become entitled to various legal spousal benefits.

It is essential that your Will is reviewed based on your new marital status. The automatic revocation of your Will can be avoided if it is drafted in contemplation of marriage i.e. if you are due to marry at the time of providing your Will instructions. If the Will pre-dates your intention to marry then it should be revised as soon as possible following your marriage.

Divorce

If you die following a divorce and your Will still features your ex-spouse, the law treats them as being deceased (though this is only applicable upon the full dissolution of the marriage i.e. upon decree absolute being issued).

The Will is not revoked in the same way that it would be upon marriage, however the specific clauses relating to your ex-spouse are ignored. This means that effectively the Will ‘skips’ the ex-spouse as an executor and beneficiary and goes to the back-up provision (i.e. children, sibling, charity etc) if in place. This is because it is assumed that you no longer wish for your ex-spouse to benefit from your estate and you perhaps did not have the opportunity to change your Will before your death.

If you still wish to benefit your ex-spouse in your Will after a divorce, you will need to make and sign a new Will to that effect.

It is always advisable to review your Will upon any change in your marital status in order to ensure that your Will adequately covers your wishes and has legal effect.

If you require advice in respect of how marriage and divorce affects your will or any other issue please contact us on 01623 624505.