There is a direct impact on your Will when you get married or divorced.
Is it true that getting married invalidates an existing Will?
When you make a Will there are a number of life events that can impact its validity. One of these is marriage. Under UK law, marriage automatically cancels out a Will made before the date of the marriage, rendering it invalid.
If you do not make a new Will, the court will follow the rules of intestacy to determine who inherits your estate. This may not be desirable for a number of reasons.
Contrary to popular belief, a spouse/civil partner does not necessarily inherit the whole of the other spouse’s/civil partner’s estate under the intestacy rules. Where there are surviving children a spouse/civil partner only has the first £250,000 of the estate, all of the personal possessions and half the balance. The other half is then divided equally between the surviving children. This may mean that your spouse/civil partner does not inherit the whole of your home.
If you do not want to leave it down to the rules of intestacy in deciding who will inherit your estate if you die, we would suggest that you either make a Will as soon as you marry, or beforehand. You can write a Will before the date of your marriage – acknowledging that it has been made in anticipation of marriage and that it shouldn’t be invalidated after the date of the ceremony.
The effect of divorce on your Will
Unlike marriage, getting a divorce does not invalidate your Will. It simply means your ex-spouse cannot be either a beneficiary of the Will or an executor of the Will. Although the rest of your Will remains valid, it is best to redraft, especially if you need to choose a new executor. You may also wish to make further revisions following a divorce such as a change of guardian/s for your children.
Note that until divorce proceedings are complete, your Will remains valid, so if you pass away before a divorce is finalised, your spouse will be able to inherit from your estate. Therefore, it is best to make a new Will when you decide the marriage is at an end, especially if your spouse or civil partner was a beneficiary or a trustee.
Mirror Wills are written by husband and wife and the wishes of each, mirror those of the other. Mirror Wills can sometimes be deemed as an impractical gesture. The problem being, that although the Wills themselves are legally binding, there is no legally binding contract between husband and wife.
Everyone is free to decide how their estate is gifted and there is nothing to stop someone from revoking a mirrored Will without his or her spouse knowing or changing the Will at a later date (for example on remarriage after the death of the spouse).
One party revoking a mirrored Will does not change the legality of the other mirrored Will.
There are cases of a widow or widower revoking a mirrored Will and drawing a new Will that changes the beneficiaries completely. If you really want to make sure a family member inherits something you wish them to have, the answer is to gift it to her in your own Will, not rely on your spouse to do so.
Your Will should always be reviewed following a life-changing event such as marriage or divorce. A Mirror Will is commonly used for spouses with similar wishes for the distribution of their estate.
Why should everyone make a Will?
It is important to make a Will, no matter how old you are. It is a task which most of us put off, yet it is one of the simplest steps you can take to ensure your family is provided for after you have gone. Remember – it is even more important if you have children, you own property or have savings, investments, insurance policies or you own a business.
For further advice and guidance, please contact Helen Phillips or Paula Murphy on 01792 468684 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.