Does marriage affect a will?

Date: Jan 23, 2015

Many individuals will be unaware that once they marry, any existing will they had in place will no longer be valid and that, should they then pass away, their estate will not be distributed according to their current will.

This is why marriage is one of the major life events that will require individuals to draft a new will, if they want to ensure their estate is distributed according to their wishes.

Once an individual enters into a new marriage, their partner is entitled to a share of their estate, regardless of existing allowances. This can often create a problem if an individual has other beneficiaries they wish to grant a share of their estate to - such as children from a previous relationship.

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

While in most cases, a will drafted before a new marriage will be cancelled, it is possible for individuals to draft a will which can remain valid even once a person has begun a new relationship.

To do this, those undertaking the estate planning process will need to draft their will to state that it was made "in contemplation of marriage". By including this clause, individuals will be able to signal that they drafted this document with the intention of getting married and that it therefore ought to be used as the basis for distributing their estate.

What about divorce?

In the event of a divorce, a person's former partner will usually be unable to receive any share of their estate. They also won't be appointed as executors of the deceased's estate, even if they were granted that power in their former partner's will.

However, former spouses can still retain a position as trustee of a certain portion of a person's estate that is held in trust.

What's more, if the courts are satisfied that a person intended to leave a portion of their estate to their former partner, a Judge may determine that any allowances contained within a will can still be received by the former spouse.

For individuals who want to ensure their estate is up-to-date following a marriage or divorce, it is important to revise their will with the help of a wills and estates lawyer. They can ensure your will has been adjusted to reflect any changes in your living conditions and is an accurate reflection of your wishes.