Marriage and your last will and testament

Making a will might not be the first thing you think of when you’re planning your wedding. It is important to note that marriage (or civil partnership) has a number of legal effects. One of these is to revoke all former wills.

Any will you had before you got married will be revoked and rendered invalid.  Instead there will be an assumption that all of your assets will go to your new spouse.  They will be the sole beneficiary.

If this is not your intention e.g. if you have any heirlooms you want to pass to other family members, then a new will is required.  Having a will is almost always a good idea anyway.  Estates with a will are processed much quicker.  This causes less stress and less expense for your bereaved beneficiaries.

Some wills can be drafted “in anticipation of marriage”.  This involves an extra part of the will setting out your intentions.  We do not provide this service because of the potential risk or confusion if plans are changed/delayed.

We suggest that you make a new will either by updating a previous will or simply printing out a will the same as the old one and executing it again after your marriage (then destroying the old one).

Married couples

If you are married and you don’t have a will then the legal presumption is that everything you have will go to your spouse.

Whether or not you want this to happen, it is worth noting that there are many benefits to having a will in place.  Not least to save on the cost and time of processing your estate.

Unmarried couples

If you are cohabiting and/ or settled with a life a partner but you are not married and you don’t have a will then your partner may not be entitled to anything if you die.  There is no such thing as a “common law husband/wife” in England and Wales.

If you aren’t married and you don’t have a will then the rules of intestacy will be followed.  Your partner will not automatically be a beneficiary.  These rules could mean that distant family members or even the Crown Estate inherits everything you own instead of your partner.

There are other things to consider for unmarried couples.  For example if your estate is worth more than the inheritance tax threshold then your non-taxable allowance will not pass to your partner.  It is possible to get a will drafted that has a Nil Rate Band Discretionary Trust in place.  Please get in touch with us if you would like to consider tax planning wills like this.

Civil partnerships

Civil Partnerships have the same legal effects as marriages.  There will be an assumption that everything will go to your civil partner when you die and vice versa.  The Civil Partnership will also revoke any previous wills.

As with marriage you can get a will drafted in anticipation of marriage (which we do not provide), or you can complete an updated will as soon as practical following the Civil Partnership.