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Marriage....Does It Affect Your Will?

Generally speaking, mortality is an inescapably depressing subject. Although, on some level, we all know that the difficult aspects of life (including death) are usually the most important topics to tackle.

Benjamin Franklin famously said that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. Although his logic is undeniable, as a society our attention is drawn solely to the latter issue. Although as a species we were keen to reach for the stars, what happens when we arrive at the heavens remains an uncomfortable and superstitious topic of conversation.

Many people enter into a marriage under the assumption that what belongs to each party as an individual will be shared between them as a whole. It is easy to see how people may believe that their Will that they make as a single person will be carried forward into their life as a spouse and vice versa. On the belief that marriage is a unity of assets, it may seems strange to learn that the very nature of marriage is enough to revoke a Will.

As a private client solicitor, I of course was armed with this knowledge, however, my fiancé was not! Shortly before our wedding this summer, I had dragged him along to the office to discuss our Wills. Now, neither of us had previously made Wills and much of my soon-to-be husband’s disgruntlement was down to the fact that he thought that it was pretty pointless going to the expense of making our Wills if they would no longer be valid once we married. How wrong he was!

We were able to make our Wills in contemplation of our forthcoming marriage. This meant that our Wills would remain valid despite our looming nuptials.

So what is the problem if your existing Will is revoked by your marriage?

Most people assume that all their possessions will automatically pass on to their husband or wife or other members of the family. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case and many families face immediate financial hardship because there is no valid Will. Further, if you remarry and do not make a new Will your new spouse could inherit all or most of your property which may mean that your children or other relatives get little or nothing. Instead you might prefer to make provision for your new spouse to have the use of some or all of your property for their life, with it going back to your children or other beneficiaries after their death.

Now I am ever the romantic and hope for a long and happy marriage, but what happens when the confetti has settled, the honeymoon period is over and things don’t work out?

It is always worth bearing in mind that a Will made in contemplation of or during a marriage may no longer be appropriate when there has been a divorce. Most people will not want an ex-spouse to benefit under the terms of their Will. It is always prudent to review any Will following a divorce. In fact if either spouse already has a Will which named the former spouse as a beneficiary that provision will be automatically revoked by a decree absolute.