Wills are very personal and important documents. However, there is confusion surrounding how significant life events like marriage and divorce affect a person’s will. For example, did you know marriage revokes a will? Here are 6 things you need to know about wills when it comes to marriage and divorce:
Marriage revokes a will
This may come as a surprise to you but once you say “I Do” any prior will that you have created is revoked, unless that will was made explicitly “in contemplation of the marriage.” This means that if you don’t make a new will and you die something called the rules of intestacy (explained later) will dictate where your estate goes. Even if you are in a long-term relationship and marriage is not necessarily in the cards, it is a good idea to put a clause in your will stating that it is being made “in contemplation of the marriage” – that way if you do have a wild weekend in Vegas that includes wedding vows, you still have a valid will.
Separation from a marriage or common-law relationship has no effect on your will
No matter how definite a separation, whether you were married or lived common law, separation does not affect your will. Everything remains the same unless you change it. If this is the case, you will want to make an appointment with your lawyer to make sure your will reads the way you would like.
A separation agreement may not be enough
Often when people who are married or common-law separate they will create a separation agreement. A separation agreement is a document between spouses or common-law partners that resolves issues of custody access, division of property and support. There is typically a clause in separation agreements in which each person waves all rights to their partner’s estate so that it’s clear that should one of them die the other will not receive anything. Unfortunately, recent case law indicates that this may not be enough to revoke a will that existed prior to the separation. Your separation agreement and your will need to be reflections of one another to ensure enforceability.
Divorce revokes a will only when it comes to your ex
Divorce will make sure that none of the property in your will that has your ex’s name on it will go to them. That being said, it does not automatically dictate who it will go to. If something happens to you and you have not changed your will the rules of intestacy will dictate where your property goes. If you want a say, change it right away.
The laws of intestacy are not something you (or your family) want to deal with
Dying “intestate” is a technical term for saying you have died without a valid will. If you haven’t ensured that your will is valid in all respects and that you have named who you would like to have possession of your property, then the laws of intestacy will dictate where your estate goes. Basically, you have absolutely no say as to who gets your property. It could end up with your estranged sister in Mexico for all you know. An intestate estate can cause a lot of headache and heartache for your loved ones so it’s worth it to look after your will when you have the chance.
A will is only the first step
Reviewing your will is essential after any life changing event, but it is not enough. To plan and provide appropriately you also need to review: joint ownership of bank accounts, investments, and land; any direct beneficiaries under life insurance, pensions or investments; and your powers of attorney which are the documents that give the power for someone to do your banking and make medical decisions if you are unable.