What effect does a divorce have on your will?

If your marriage is ended by a court order (for example a decree absolute in a divorce) your will is not void or invalid.

Generally, if your marriage or civil partnership comes to an end, your will remains valid but your ex-partner will be treated as though he / she had died on the date that the marriage or civil partnership ended. So if he / she had been appointed as an executor their appointment becomes invalid and if they were a beneficiary, this benefit also becomes invalid.

If you have children, you must consider who would look after them and have access to them if you die. If you had appointed him / her as trustee of a trust for the benefit of your children, or as a guardian of your children, the trust fails. That might not be what you want - although you are divorced, you may still like your ex-partner to be responsible for your children's trust fund.

If you don’t change your will at this point and over the coming years you re-marry, your current will does become invalid, unless it has been specifically written to cover these circumstances (the same applies to a civil partnership). If you live with a new partner but aren’t married, you don’t have an automatic right to inherit from each other, unless you make a will showing what you want to happen to your assets, including jointly owned property.

Julie Frampton is a Wills & Tax Executive who specialises in helping clients to draft their wills. She says “Having just come through a separation, you probably have a whole list of things that you want to do! Making a will probably isn’t on that list, but it is vital to think about it. Doing nothing is usually not a good option! Your life has changed a lot recently; your will must reflect that.”

If you don’t have a will, or it has become invalid, your assets will be dealt with under the intestacy rules, where the law dictates who inherits your estate. All of your assets and belongings may not be shared as you would expect or want.

The best advice is to make a new will immediately after your divorce, especially if your ex-partner was a beneficiary or a trustee. You can make a new will at any time after separation, before divorce, so that these issues do not occur. You do not have to wait for the decree absolute. Julie concludes “Making the right choices depends on clear, practical advice. The process doesn’t take long and we will help you to write your will to perfectly deal with your unique circumstances, needs and wishes.”

Our Wills & Tax Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Julie or her team, will be happy to chat about your situation and you particular requirements.