9 March 2023 by

Does marriage and civil partnership affect your Will?

Many people are unaware that the act of getting married or forming a civil partnership automatically invalidates a Will.

There is, however, one exception to this rule. You can make a Will before marriage that will not be revoked by the act of marriage if the Will is made in expectation of marriage. The Will must include a statement confirming that you are expecting to marry a specific person and that you do not intend for your Will to be revoked by this marriage.

It is often the case that cohabiting couples prepare their Wills before marriage and are not aware that they must be revisit the documents in the process of, or after, getting married.

If you prepared a Will before getting married which was not made in expectation of marriage to your now spouse, you will need to prepare a new Will to avoid your estate being distributed against your wishes.

If you do not have a valid Will, on your death, you die ‘intestate’, and your estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. The rules set out an order of priority to determine who should inherit your estate if you have not left a Will. These rules may not match your intentions.  For example, the rules could mean that your estate would be divided between your spouse and children rather than wholly to your spouse; or friends or charities would not inherit, and instead distant relatives would.

Should we wait until we are married or in a Civil Partnership to make Wills?

The simplest answer to this question is no. Cohabiting couples unfortunately have no status under the law and so, if you do wish for your partner to inherit all or some assets on your death, you will need to prepare a Will before you get married or form a civil partnership. Making a Will allows you to set out your exact wishes and so you should ensure that, at all stages of your life, your Will reflects your wishes.

If you own a property together, it will certainly be important for you to obtain advice about what would happen to this property if one of you were to die. If you hold the property as joint tenants, your share will automatically pass to your partner but if you hold the property as tenants in common, your share will fall under the terms of your Will or intestacy rules. If you do not have a Will and hold the property as tenants in common, your share could pass to your family which could cause financial problems for your partner. You may wish for your share of the property to pass to your partner completely or at least for your lifetime but if you do not have a Will in place, there is no guarantee that this will happen.

If you are planning to get married or form a civil partnership, you should review your Wills before and make new Wills in expectation of marriage to ensure that there is no chance of the intestacy rules applying.

If you are thinking about making a new Will, please contact our Wealth and Estate Planning team.

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