Joanne Buckley


Wills, Trusts and Probate

Marriage – the effect on your Will

Joanne Buckley


Those that enter a marriage after making a Will are at risk of having their Will revoked, with assets left to pass through “intestacy rules.” It is important that you update your Will in these circumstances, to protect your wishes and assets in the event of your passing.

Intestacy rules are rules laid down by statutory provision, and dictate which person/s should inherit the estate of a person who dies without leaving a valid Will. These instances can cause confusion and upset within families, or even result in contentious probate proceedings.   

Take this example:

Mr Jones has a child called Anthony and Mrs Smith has a child called Brian.

Mr Jones signs a Will in 2017 leaving all of his estate amounting to £200,000 to Anthony, and Mrs Smith signs a Will in 2017 leaving all of her estate also amounting to £200,000 to Brian. Mr Jones and Mrs Smith marry each other in 2018, and they do not make new Wills as, despite the marriage, they agree that they do not need to benefit from the other’s estate on the first death and would prefer their respective estates to pass to their respective children.

In this instance, the Wills made in 2017 would be revoked by the 2018 marriage. It would mean that if Mr Jones dies first, then intestacy rules would result in the entirety of his £200,000 estate passing to Mrs Smith and, on the assumption that Mrs Smith never changes the terms of her 2018 Will, then on her later death both her £200,000 and Mr Jones’ £200,000 are inherited by Brian – Anthony will get nothing. If it is Mrs Smith who dies first then the reverse happens i.e. Anthony inherits £400,000 and Brian will get nothing.

If their Wills had been updated following the marriage to say that in the event of their passing their wishes remained the same, then Brian and Anthony could both expect the estates outlined in the 2017 Will.

The lesson is that if a person has made a Will in the past (or wishes to sign a Will for the first time) and is intending to marry, that they revise their Will before the marriage takes place. The new Will should include a statement that the Will is made in contemplation of the marriage taking place to a named person, and that the marriage is not intended to revoke the Will.

The marriage referred to in the Will would then ideally take place within the course of one year, as any further delay could cast some doubt as to whether the marriage has met the clear statements in the Will, and in turn lead to it being revoked.

If you’re interested in any of the topics raised in this article, or for further information, please call to speak to one of the team on 0115 9888 777.

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