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The Undead Spouse: Unintentional Revocation of Wills

Wills Certificate and Marriage Rings

Wills Certificate and Marriage RingsYou can change or revoke your Will at any time during your lifetime as long as you have the mental capacity to do it.  However, revocation of a Will can also occur as a result of events, including marriage and divorce.

Marriage can revoke a Will …
Revocation of Wills by marriage is often overlooked as the happy occasion actually tends to be a busy time for everyone involved, naturally. Thoughts are on the wedding and honeymoon.

This situation can be avoided if – when making a Will – it contains specific wording to show it is made in contemplation of marriage or civil partnership to a particular person.  It would not be enough for the Will to merely say that it is being made in contemplation of marriage in general terms. The person you are marrying has to be named.

It is easy to see why many Wills are revoked by the event of marriage. The key message (especially if there are children involved) is to get your new Will sorted before the big event unless you are comfortable with your assets being distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

… and Divorce may also have the same effect …
Strictly speaking, it is not correct that divorce will revoke a Will. Rather, ex-spouses named in Wills are treated as having died before the person who made the Will.  Therefore, any gift made to this ex-spouse in the Will will not take effect. However, it is preferable to have clarity in how your estate is dealt with after your death rather than to rely on a default legal position which may alter.  Should your personal circumstances change significantly, then any Will which you have in place should be reviewed and changes made accordingly.

By Jack Thorogood of the Wills, Trusts & Estates team at Cambridge solicitors Barr Ellison

Disclaimer: While we do all that is possible in terms of ensuring its accuracy, this blog contains general information only. Nothing in these pages constitutes legal advice. You need to consult a suitably qualified lawyer from the firm on any specific legal problem or matter.

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