Although the number of people marrying in the UK continues to fall, around 40% (approximately 100,000) of the marriages and civil partnerships that do happen each year are the couples’ second or even third weddings. Although it will be the last thing you want to think about on the run up to your wedding or civil ceremony, the question of whether you should update your Will if you remarry or enter a civil partnership is most definitely worth consideration.
Over the last few years family units have become more extended and more complex. This means it is more important than ever to make sure you have done everything to ensure your loved ones receive what you want them to should the worst happen.
This is brought into even sharper focus later in life.
There may be children from previous marriages or partnerships who have been named as their parent’s sole beneficiaries while they were single. The couple may have transferred their savings into a joint bank account. They may have added their new spouse/partner to the policies or pensions they opened to support them in their later years. There may be more property involved and that property could well be mortgage-free.
Whatever the circumstances we would suggest both you and your new spouse/partner should make new Wills, not least because under English and Welsh law your existing Wills will automatically be invalidated once you are married. This means the state would decide what happens to your assets under intestacy rules unless you update your will if you remarry or enter a new civil partnership.
Under intestacy rules, your spouse/civil partner will receive the first £270,000 of your Estate. The remainder will then be divided between your spouse and your children or, if you don’t have any children, your entire Estate will go to your spouse or civil partner. If you want to divide your Estate in any other way you will need to have a new Will drafted to make sure your final wishes are carried out.
A new Will can also help to preserve the surviving spouse or partner’s quality of life.
It may be worth discussing adding a Life Interest Trust to your new Wills with your lawyer. A Life Interest Trust is a way of providing for your spouse/civil partner whilst at the same time ring-fencing your assets for your children and other beneficiaries to eventually inherit. In addition, what passes to a spouse/civil partner via a Life Interest Trust will be exempt from Inheritance Tax on the first death.
Alternatively, if your primary concern is making sure your new spouse/partner keeps the family home as long as they need it after which point it would pass to your children, you may wish to consider a Family Trust.
As we’ve said having a new Will drafted is the safest option as it will allow you and your new husband or wife to set out your exact wishes and give you total peace of mind your wishes will be carried out in the event of your death.
You do not need to wait until you have actually married or entered into a civil partnership before signing a new Will. Your lawyer can include a clause in your Will that it is made in ‘expectation’ of your marriage or civil partnership’. Having this clause in your Will saves your Will from being automatically revoked when you marry or enter a civil partnership.
However, there is an alternative.
You could ask your lawyer to draw up a codicil (an addition) to your existing Will reaffirming your existing Will.
Whilst divorce does not invalidate your Will itself, you will need to check the details.
If you have appointed your spouse as the executor or beneficiary of your Will, these clauses will fail when your marriage or civil partnership is dissolved. Your spouse/partner will be considered to have predeceased you with regards to the Will and any gift made to that spouse/partner will not take effect unless you have specifically stated that they should continue after divorce.
As always, our answer is a qualified and experienced lawyer.
While we appreciate this is the only answer you’d expect to hear from a law firm, there are very specific reasons for using a lawyer.
The first is we are fully regulated. Not only does this mean all our work is insured (which instantly provides you and your beneficiaries with an additional layer of protection), it also means we are accountable to the professional body we belong to. This means that if we don’t deliver the highest quality work for our, our professional accreditation (and, by extension, our practice and our livelihood) will be at risk.
The second reason is as part of our regulatory requirements we are continually undergoing professional training. This makes sure we are always up to date with the latest legislation and the latest thinking which in turn makes sure you always receive the best advice, the best solutions and the best possible service.
These are standards an unregulated online Will writer simply can’t match.
If you’re planning to marry, remarry or enter a new civil partnership and would like to have a chat about how we could help you and your new husband or wife draft a new Will, please email [email protected] or call Deniece on 0208 866 1820.