The Impact of Marriage on a Will
People are often surprised to learn that from the moment they get married a previously prepared Will is automatically revoked. Accordingly, unless a new Will is made after marriage, the law of intestacy will normally dictate how that person’s estate is divided.
Under the intestacy rules, a deceased’s estate will pass to their surviving family. If they have a surviving spouse and children for example, the spouse and children will receive a legacy of £250,000, a life interest in half the residue and the remaining half will pass to the children on statutory trusts.
There have been growing concerns however that vulnerable people are being exploited by opportunistic suitors seeking to benefit from these rules. By way of example, under the current rules, if a widower remarries following the death of his first wife and then dies very shortly after this (without preparing a new Will) his second wife could inherit the majority (or all) of his estate. If there are any children of the first marriage, they may not receive anything from the estate, which they might consider unfair.
Parliament recently debated a draft Bill seeking to address the issue, in part by changing the law so that marriage would no longer revoke a Will. Though well intentioned, there is danger that new measures along these lines could replace one problem with another. For example, in the case of a person who prepares a Will while they are single, if they were to forget to prepare a new Will after they get married, their estate may not pass to a spouse or children which could have disastrous consequences for those who were dependent on the deceased.
The presence of complex family structures makes it very difficult for legislation to address every potential outcome in a balanced way. Parliament has sought to provide a safety net for those that fail to prepare Wills, but this cannot cater for every possible outcome.
The best way to make sure one’s wishes are carried out is to prepare a Will and review this regularly, especially following significant life events such as marriage or the birth of children. Though this subject can be difficult to think and talk about, it is essential in order to ensure that the right people are provided for when we are no longer around.
If you think you may have a claim against an estate, or you want to protect an inheritance you have received (or are expecting), please contact Dino Sikkel on firstname.lastname@example.org.