The importance of updating your will if you remarry

When big changes happen in your life, which could include getting remarried, the last thing you are probably thinking about is updating your Will to factor in these changes. Yet it is so important to alter your existing Will or draw up a new one if circumstances change, or you could find your final wishes are not carried out and your inheritance is not passed on to specific family members.

What happens if I remarry and haven’t made a new Will?

If you remarry but don’t draw up a new Will to reflect your new marriage, your existing Will is revoked, meaning you do not have a valid Will and your estate will be dealt with under intestacy rules. Under these rules, depending on the size of your estate your spouse will receive the first £250,000 and the remainder will be divided between your spouse in trust and your children. If you do not have surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren your spouse will receive the entire estate.

This can cause problems as a valuable asset such as property might be jointly owned by your children from a previous marriage and your current spouse, therefore to ensure that your final wishes are met it is vital to draw up a new Will after your remarriage setting out who you want to inherit.

What if I am not yet remarried but planning to remarry?

Alternatively, if you have not yet remarried but are planning to do so, you can draw up a Will that states you want the Will to be valid in contemplation of your marriage to a particular person. This confirms that you do not want your Will to be revoked in anticipation of your upcoming marriage; as a result it will not be invalidated once the marriage has taken place.

My spouse and I have made mirror wills-what effect will this have if one of us dies?

Although mirror wills are meant to “mirror” the wishes of both people, there is no legally binding contract between the husband and wife even though the wills themselves are legally binding. That means that although your wills might both reflect that you wish to give a certain amount of the estate to each other in the event of death and leave the remainder to your children, there is nothing to prevent either side from revoking their Will without their spouse knowing, or changing it at a later date, for example if they remarried. If one party does revoke their mirror Will, this does not affect the legality of the remaining mirror Will.

If you want to ensure that your loved ones are able to inherit certain assets then rather than relying on mirror wills we would advise gifting them in your own Will.

What if I am separated or get divorced?

If you are separated then your current Will is still valid, no matter how long you have been separated for. If you are divorced and have received your decree absolute then if your Will was made before the divorce it will still be valid. Issues can arise, as many people appoint their spouse as an executor or beneficiary either alone or to share with their children, but the divorce means your former spouse is effectively completely removed from your Will (however any other beneficiaries will still be valid). If they were the only beneficiary of your estate this will now fall back into intestacy rules as there is no one else to inherit the estate.

If you are divorced and have children, the estate will go to the children unless they pass away at the same time as you, in which case the estate would go to your parents, otherwise it would pass to your siblings or their children.

If you divorce and don’t have children the estate would go to your parents or siblings – if you have a new partner but you are not married or have started a new family then it is worth drawing up a new Will to make sure they are properly accounted for.

How can I ensure my children are provided for?

A main concern for those remarrying is protecting the interests of their children and ensuring that they inherit the family home, without the result being that your new spouse is made homeless if they outlive you. To solve this issue a family trust can be made in your Will which allows your spouse to remain living in the house until they pass away, but upon their death the estate will revert to whoever you have specified in your Will.

If you make the decision to exclude from your Will anyone who is dependent on you, they might be able to make a claim on the estate when you have passed away.

No matter what stage of life you are at, we would always encourage you to draw up a Will, but even more so after any major life changes to ensure that relatives you specifically want to inherit will definitely be able to. For advice on updating or drafting a new Will contact our Wills and Probate team on 0800 088 6280

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Jayne Smith - Rothera Sharp Solicitors Nottingham