Legal Romance: Understanding Contemplation of Marriage in a Will

If you have a Will, it is usually the case that getting married will make it invalid. The exception is when a Will has specifically been made in contemplation of marriage.

Having a valid Will in place means your estate can pass to your choice of beneficiaries in the way that you want. It is also an opportunity to make sure that your affairs are structured in the most efficient way possible.

Without a Will, everything you own passes under the Rules of Intestacy. These rules determine who will inherit in strict order of priority. For those who are married and have children, your spouse will inherit the first £270,000 of your net estate. They also receive your personal possessions. The remainder of your estate is divided into two equal shares. Your spouse inherits one share and your children split the other share equally between them. This may result in your children inheriting considerably less than you wanted them to.

A Will made in contemplation of marriage

If you marry or enter into a civil partnership, any Will you already have in place automatically becomes invalid. This is unless it was made in contemplation of the marriage.

To remain valid after marriage, a Will needs to comply with certain rules, including:

  • The Will must state that you are intending to marry and will not be revoked by the marriage
  • The person that you are intending to marry must be named
  • The marriage should take place within a relatively short period of time after the Will is made. Length of time is not defined in legislation, but cannot, for example, be many years
Why is a Will important on marriage?

A review of your will is always recommended in the light of any major life changes such as marriage or civil partnership. It is particularly important to ensure you have a valid Will in place if you have children from a former relationship. Also in the case of entering a blended family.

A Will allows you to prevent your wealth from passing away from your family. Should you leave everything to your spouse on the understanding that they in turn would leave your share to your children, there is nothing to stop them later changing their mind.

They could decide to leave everything to someone else and not to your children. If their Will is revoked or they die intestate, all of their wealth could pass to a new spouse. It may even pass to children they have with another partner.

Another risk is that if everything is left to your spouse, the funds may have to be used to pay for their future care needs. Making a Will means you can leave property to your children, but give your spouse a life interest. This means they can continue to live in your shared home. However the value of your share would not be included in any calculations for means-tested care fees.

Once they no longer needed your shared home, your interest would pass to your choice of beneficiaries, which could be your children.

Making a Will

Having a Will gives you peace of mind for the future. You ensure that your estate is dealt with as efficiently as possible and the right provisions are in place for your loved ones. You also have the option to leave money to charities that are close to your heart.

Most importantly review your Will every three to five years as well as in circumstances such as marriage or the birth of a child or grandchild.

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