Delayed marriages/civil ceremonies and the impact on succession
We recently reported on the likely surge in individuals preparing home-made Wills in light of the Covid-19 pandemic (https://www.crippspg.co.uk/will-disputes/a-surge-in-wills-but-are-they-valid/) and the risks and pitfalls that can be associated with home-made Wills. Another, less direct, way in which the pandemic is going to be affecting how some people’s estates pass is going to be through the delays to their marriage/civil ceremony.
A large percentage of couples are delaying their weddings/civil ceremonies as, despite the easing of lockdown, there are still limits and restrictions to social gatherings. At the time of writing, the government’s guidance indicates that gatherings of more than 30 people are permitted but only in certain public places however it is strongly advised that numbers are restricted to 30. All guests are required to adhere to social distancing guidelines and people should avoid singing and/or playing music at a volume that may encourage shouting! It is not just the restrictions that will give a couple reason to consider delaying their wedding/civil ceremony, but they will also have concerns with vulnerable friends/relatives attending and there may also be restrictions on travel.
When a person gets married, any previously prepared Will will automatically become void (unless their Will includes a specific clause in contemplation of marriage) and if they die without preparing a Will after their marriage they are considered to have died intestate (i.e. ‘without a Will’). The rules of intestacy will then determine how that person’s estate will pass. Under these rules, where a person is married (and without a Will), their spouse or civil partner will receive their chattels (i.e. the items they owned), £270,000 and half of the residue, with the other half passing to the deceased’s descendants.
If that person dies without having married however, the terms of their previous Will will take effect or, if they don’t have a Will, then the intestacy rules state that their estate will pass to certain blood relatives (if they have any).
For any couples that were expecting to rely on the intestacy rules to provide for their future spouse, they might wish to consider the impact of the delays on how their estates will pass and what will happen if they were to die before they are able to get married/have a civil ceremony. A couple of potential solutions to the problem include preparing a Will through a solicitor for the time period up to (or in anticipation of) the wedding/civil ceremony, or getting married/having a civil ceremony now with a small number of people in attendance and celebrating the occasion on a later date.
If a couple has not been able to marry or have a civil ceremony before one of them dies, it may be possible for the survivor to bring a claim against their partner’s estate. In this instance they should contact a solicitor as soon as possible as there may be time limits that they need to consider.
If you have any questions on the content of this article please don’t hesitate to contact one of the team.