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When your personal circumstances change, it is vitally important you update your Will to ensure that your money and possessions are distributed according to your wishes on death. Getting married is no exception, particularly as the law surrounding Wills and marriage may come as a surprise.

Marrying or entering into a civil partnership automatically revokes a Will, leaving it invalid. The only exception is if your Will is stated to have been made ‘in contemplation of the marriage’. If it is not, and you don’t write a will after marrying, your estate will be dealt with under the rules of intestacy.

Marriage and The Laws of Intestacy

Under the laws of intestacy:

1. If you have no children, your spouse will inherit your whole estate.

2. If you do have children, your spouse will inherit your personal chattels, the first £250,000 of your estate, and a half share of what remains. The other half share will be divided between your children, and they would be entitled to their inheritance at age 18.

The laws of intestacy were drawn up to reflect the social landscape and family structures in the 1920s. Some changes were made in October 2014, but the law nevertheless remains unfit for many people’s circumstances. It is not a good idea to rely on the intestacy laws and you should note that ‘step children’ will receive nothing from your estate if you die intestate.

Why Estate Planning Is Important

Making a Will allows you to decide who should receive your estate, and on what terms.

You can take your particular circumstances into account and ensure that the right provision is made for the people you care most about. Other important reasons can be found in our article ‘ten good reasons why making a will is important’, which can be found here.

If you do not make a Will and the intestacy provisions produce an unfair result, certain people can apply to a court for reasonable financial provision from your estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

When this happens, the court may award the applicant:

  • regular payments from the estate 
  • a lump sum payment from the estate 
  • property from the estate. 

This is a complicated and delicate area of the law, and early legal advice is necessary for anyone who wishes to pursue their interests effectively.

Providing for a Partner Should You Not Wish to Marry

Many people believe that divorce revokes a will, but that is not the case. Your ex-spouse is cut out of your Will as a result of divorce, but all other provisions of the Will still stand. So, should you enter into a new relationship after a divorce but don’t remarry, you would need to make a new Will if you wish to make some provision for your new partner.

Unmarried partners are not recognised by the intestacy rules at all. It would make no difference if you have lived together for many years, nothing would be due from the estate to your partner if you die intestate. The term ‘common law spouse’ does not feature in the intestacy rules.

That said, if your partner is financially dependent upon you, he or she may be able to make a claim against your estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 if no provision is made for him or her in your pre-divorce Will, or by the intestacy rules. This could lead to complication, stress and great expense for your partner and other heirs.

Change Your Will With Howells Solicitors

If you need to write or rewrite your will, or are considering making an inheritance claim, Howells Solicitors can help.

With decades of collective experience, we have a friendly and dedicated team of solicitors, and we will ensure the solicitor handling your case is an expert in their field.

Call us free on 0808 178 2773 or email info@howellslegal.com.

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