24 March 2021

’til death do us part

By Miranda Marshall, Director, Hayes + Storr.

The classic ‘bridezilla’ has a list as long as her embroidered train for her dream wedding day. In amongst the confetti, taffeta frock, and heavenly honeymoon there should be the less romantic nuts and bolts items, including remembering to review your Will?

If your marital or relationship circumstances change, it is critical to review your Will and to take the professional legal advice you need to make all is as you wish it.

Marrying, or entering a Civil Partnership (CP), revokes a Will in its entirety. Divorce treats an ex-spouse as having died for the purpose of any benefit from your estate. It is vital to put a Will in place during any divorce process to prevent your estate being sued. Cutting out an ex-spouse or ex-CP is not necessarily possible. Anyone who has been married more than once needs to think carefully about all those for who they are required or wish to provide.

Providing you have capacity to do so, a deathbed Will, or deathbed marriage may be an option. It is noteworthy that there is a higher level of mental capacity required to make a Will than to get married. No comment!

Whereas the law has kept up in ensuring legal rights and financial security for those who cohabit, but do not marry, the same is not so if one member of a couple dies without a Will.

In 2019 the introduction of opposite sex civil partnerships (CP) was a further step in equality and endorsing several different forms of relationship; not just married or unmarried.

Cohabitation is no longer seen as a taboo and many couples (of all ages and stages of life) do not want or marry or enter a CP. As there is no formality required in entering a cohabiting relationship, and as the relationship takes many forms and is not possible to define, the legal rights upon death are not established with such clarity or with such protection.

The rules of intestacy set out who gets what when someone dies without a Will. The spouse or CP has a degree of entitlement in law, but not so the cohabitee, regardless of the length of their relationship and even whether there are children from it. It is a long and expensive process to bring a claim.

A Will can be made in expectation of marriage (or a CP) to prevent it being revoked the very moment you say ‘I do’.

And they all lived happily ever after………….

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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