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Marriage, Divorce and Wills – the facts

‘Marriage is the chief cause of divorce.’ – Groucho Marx

All jokes aside, whether you’re contemplating the joy of a wedding or, sadly, thinking of divorce, it’s prudent to be aware of the effects of these joint contracts on your will. This applies particularly with regard to any children you have – either from previous relationships or with your new spouse.

Did you know that as soon as you marry, any existing will you might have is revoked? So it’s essential to draw up a valid new will when you marry – one that suits your new situation, your new spouse, and any children you already have. Don’t delay – once you have set a wedding date, make a new will and have the clause ‘in contemplation of marriage’ added to it.

If you don’t amend your will on marriage, your new spouse is liable to inherit the majority of your estate, regardless of the existence of children from previous partners. And if you die intestate (without making a will at all) the new spouse could, depending on the value of your estate, inherit it all. The new spouse might then decide to leave nothing, or very little, to your children from this or any other relationship, after Inheritance Tax has been paid.

‘Mirror wills’ are not recommended for newly weds. This is where a husband and wife, or civil partners, make almost identical wills – leaving everything to each other as sole beneficiary and executor. Mirror wills can be changed after the death of one partner, potentially writing the deceased’s children out of their inheritance, with the surviving partner leaving the whole estate to their children only. This is called sideways disinheritance.

And did you know that when you divorce, as far as a will is concerned, the former partner is treated as having died on the day the Decree Absolute is finalised? This means that any instruction to leave assets left to your former spouse are invalidated. As are any requests for them to act as Executor or Trustee.

So it’s essential to revisit your will immediately after divorce, to make sure it suits your new circumstances and wishes, particularly with regard to children. For example, if you have children with your ex-spouse and you still want him or her to be their financial guardian, you need to ensure that this is written in the new will. In addition, if you pass away before your divorce is finalised and your Decree Absolute granted, your soon-to-be ex-spouse is still liable to inherit your entire estate.

Ensure your will meets your current wishes
This may all sound a little complicated, but with sound, professional advice, it’s very easy to draw up wills that work best for the happiness and well-being of both partners and their children, in whatever situation they find themselves.

During our first meeting with you, we ask many questions so that we can fully understand your family relationships (emotional and legal), in order to draw up wills, trusts and guardianship clauses for children. We can also look at protective property trusts, and how the way you own your home (joint tenants vs tenants in common) can affect your estate.

Contact us
TLB Planning specialises in legal affairs, insurances and funeral plans to take you and your loved ones “Through Life and Beyond”.

Our Legal Services staff have extensive experience in the field and are all STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) qualified Will Drafters, so you can be confident that we provide the highest professional standards.

If you would like to talk to us about your plans for wills, Guardianship Clauses, Lasting Powers of Attorney, trusts and other matters, do get in touch on 01792 342 673 or email us at info@tlbplanning.org