If so, then you’d better know how each affects your Will.
Marriage is one of the few events that REVOKES a Will. Not many realise this in the excitement of the nuptials. So, if you had a Will before your marriage, it is now null and void. If you don’t make a new Will after your marriage, you will now die ‘intestate’. You can make a Will ‘in contemplation of your marriage’ but there must be genuine intent and your partner must be known by you as your ‘intended’, rather than there being just an open-ended wish or hope! This would mean the appropriate wording being included within your Will when it is written.
Getting married should be a trigger to review your Will or to write your first Will anyway as your spouse-to-be will have different rights and your obligations to them will differ from being those of just ‘a partner’.
Separation is never an easy time and it may mean that you are potentially on the road to divorce. But, as far as your Will is concerned, you are still married and whatever your Will says will still happen if you die before you are divorced. Your spouse still has the same rights. If you haven’t got a Will and you die when you are separated from your spouse then you die ‘intestate’ and the Laws of Intestacy would give your spouse the same from your estate as if you weren’t separated. The end result could be that your spouse ends up with all your estate. Most divorce lawyers will recommend that you rewrite your Will as soon as possible to stop both the Law of Intestacy or your current Will resulting in your spouse inheriting your estate, if you die before your divorce.
Once divorced, the general rule is that it is as though your ex-spouse has predeceased you. So, if you still don’t rewrite your Will once you are divorced, your old Will will still be valid (divorce DOESN’T revoke a Will) but your ex-spouse will be viewed as though they have already died. So, if your ex-spouse is an executor of your Will, they no longer will be now that you are divorced and your reserve executor will act instead. If your ex-spouse stands to inherit from your Will, at your divorce the gift will fall to whoever would have received it if your spouse had died before you. Any powers given to your ex-spouse in the Will will no longer stand as it will be deemed that they have predeceased you.
Of course, if you don’t have a Will, an ex-spouse does not inherit at all according to the Laws of Intestacy.
What many do not realise is that being divorced only means that the marriage is dissolved. It does not stop any financial agreements or claims, nor does it affect the rights of birth parents. Do-it-yourself divorces are becoming quite common and where the divorce is relatively amicable, many choose this option as it is significantly cheaper than involving divorce lawyers. However, what many do not realise is that by not using a professional, there will be no full and final financial settlement in place and, because of that, your ex-spouse has a legitimate claim on your estate at your death.
It is worth remembering that any assets that are held jointly, including both property and bank accounts, will automatically pass to the remaining joint owner at death. It is irrelevant whether you and the other joint owner are married, separated or divorced. This is because the asset passes according to the Law of Survivorship which surpasses the Law of Intestacy and is not affected or controlled by your Will.
As ever, it is always worth getting legal advice if you are considering either marriage, separation or divorce as it will affect your estate.