So, (when life becomes a bit more normal again) you're getting married. And you sorted out your Will years ago. Great. But did you know that marriage automatically revokes your Will?
This basic legal principle is based on the supposition that succession rights change so dramatically on marriage that it would be inappropriate for an existing Will to remain.
If you die intestate, statute will govern who should inherit your estate and it is very likely that your wishes will not be fulfilled.
You might assume that statute will pass your whole estate to your new spouse once you are married. And that might be what you would want to happen. But if your estate exceeds £270,000 that might not be what actually happens.
In that event, your loved ones may end up with a large, and unexpected, Inheritance Tax bill which could have been delayed until the second death with properly drafted, tax efficient wills. If everything had passed to your spouse as intended, your estate would have qualified for spouse exemption and there would have been no tax to pay.
Statute certainly doesn't take into account the more complex nature of families in the 21st century.
If you remarry without making a new Will, you could completely disinherit your children from a previous relationship. If all, or the bulk of, your estate passes to your new spouse, it will be up to them to decide how your assets will pass on their own death. They could remarry and pass your estate to their new spouse. They could die intestate and leave your estate to their own children. They could make a Will leaving everything to the cats home.
Or maybe your spouse dies before you. In that event, if you die without leaving a Will, your estate would pass to your children. But that will not include your step-children, with whom you may have developed a long and loving relationship and who you want to be treated in the same way as your natural children.
So what should I do?
Everyone's circumstances are different and you should take advice from a solicitor about how best to achieve your wishes. You should review your Will (or lack thereof) at the time of any life changing event – and marriage is certainly one of those.
Yes, marriage revokes a Will, but that doesn't mean that you need to wait until after you are married to make your Will.
As I touched on in my earlier blog , it is possible to make a Will "in contemplation of marriage". This involves including a special clause within the Will to make it clear that the person making the Will expects to marry a particular person and intends that the Will should not be revoked by reason of that marriage.
It might not feel very romantic, but it is vital that in the lead up to your wedding you consider your Wills to avoid any unexpected (and equally unromantic) surprises in the future.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*
Originally published July 15, 2020.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.