There have been a number of changes in regard to marriage law since 2004, with the most recent being the introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships in 2019. These changes have been important in providing clarity over legal rights and financial security when one member of the couple dies.
- If you are a cohabiting couple, it is unlikely that intestacy provisions would reflect your wishes, you need to think carefully about making your Wills.
- If you are planning to get married or enter a civil partnership, the law dictates that any marriage or civil partnership formed after a will is executed has the effect of revoking the Will in its entirety. As such, if you currently cohabit and intend to marry or become civil partners, you must ensure that your Wills set out this intention in a legally binding way.
- If you are in the process of getting a divorce or dissolution, a formal separation can take time. If you do not want your spouse or civil partner to inherit if you die before the proceedings have been completed, you should consider updating your Will before receiving your final order.
- Once your divorce or dissolution has been finalised, any reference to your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner within your Will is to be read as though that person died on the date your divorce or dissolution was finalised. It is important to ensure that your Will is updated following divorce or dissolution to make sure that it continues to reflect your wishes.
- Cutting out a dependant ex-spouse or ex-civil partner may not be appropriate in all circumstances, for example if you have been ordered to continue making regular payments to them. This makes updating your Will post-divorce or post-dissolution even more vital.
- For a second or third marriage, you should consider and seek advice on any claim a former spouse or civil partner may have over your estate to ensure that your current partner is protected, especially if you have children from an earlier relationship.
- A deathbed union or a deathbed will should never be a first choice but can be a useful option for couples who have not planned ahead. Even so, careful consideration must be given to ensuring that wishes are not made in a panic, that you are not subject to undue influence, and you should seek expert advice to help guide you through the process.