How does marriage and divorce affect your Will?

How does marriage and divorce affect your Will?

Wills shouldn’t have to be hard for those who have a more complicated family setup. Usually, divorcing couples will separate for some time before getting a divorce, and many divorced partners will still want each other to be acknowledged after one partner dies. All of this may affect your will, so here’s what you’ll need to bear in mind when writing a Will if you’re family setup isn’t so straightforward.

Inheritance when you’re separated but still married

If you’re still married to an ex-partner when you die, and don’t want them to receive a portion of what you leave behind, you’ll need to set this out in the Will. You can do this by clearly stating who you do want to inherit your stuff. Inheritance laws don’t recognise a separated (but married) couple any differently to a married one. So if you die, your ex-partner will become the main beneficiary and your new partner (if you have one) won’t be acknowledged.

Otherwise, the assets you leave behind will be dealt out according to traditional laws – starting with a partner, then your closest relatives. Unfortunately, the legal side of death doesn’t accommodate our society’s modern family arrangements. 

What might your ex-partner inherit?

Let’s go through those inheritance rules once again (you can find more details on inheritance and inheritance tax in our article). If you die without stating who you would rather receive your estate, and are still married to your ex-partner, it will be dished out under the Rules of Intestacy. This means:

If you have children, your spouse would receive up to £250,000 of your Estate and all of your personal belongings. The remainder (anything over £250,000) would then be split 50/50, with your spouse receiving 50% of this and the remaining 50% being divided equally between your children.

But if you don’t have children or if the value of your estate is under £250,000 then your estranged spouse would inherit everything.

How does divorce affect a Will?

When you do divorce your ex, this has an impact on your current Will, as it stands when you last updated it. In a seemingly bitter move, the legal world treats your Will as if your ex has died if you divorce. Though, this is so they won’t be automatically named as a Beneficiary, Trustee or Executor after you die, rather than for any malicious purposes.

If you harbour no ill feelings, you can still make sure your ex partner benefits from your Estate. To do this you’ll need to make a new Will after your divorce.

What happens to a Will if I get remarried?

A marriage makes any existing Will you have void. If you’re planning on marrying again after a divorce, but don’t want your new Will to become void, then you’ll have to make sure it’s drafted in “contemplation of marriage”. This makes sure your new Will recognises and names the person that you intend to marry.

Find out more

Write your Will! Read our article here on how to start

Head to our Legal Matters for more information on the legal side of death

Don’t forget to brush up on your inheritance tax knowledge here

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