How does a marriage or divorce affect a will?

Published 14 Jan 2014

Author: Garbis Kolokossian

There are a number of ways a marriage or divorce can have an impact on a will, some of which could lead to an inheritance dispute if not carefully considered.

A will usually remains valid until the individual formally amends or revokes it. This is why people are often advised to adjust the document when they experience a life-changing event.

However, marriages and divorces are the exceptions to this rule. Getting married automatically revokes any will you may have in place, unless you had already included a potential spouse in the original document.

Anyone who has not accounted for a future husband or wife - either specifically or in broad terms - should write a new will once they marry. The new version can be almost identical to the first copy, if you wish.

How is a will affected by a divorce?

A divorce is often a stressful time for all parties involved, but you should take the time to examine how ending a marriage can impact your current will.

In contrast to getting married, a divorce will not revoke the entire document - but it will automatically invalidate certain parts. These include:

  • Any gifts you had outlined to your former spouse
  • Your former spouse being an executor - unless you specify in the will that you're happy for this to still be the case

Ultimately, it is often recommended to simply write a new will when you get divorced rather than rely on any partially revoked elements.

Whether you are getting married or divorced, it is always a good idea to contact a wills lawyer who can help you write a new will that outlines how you would like your estate to be divided when you die.

Could a marriage or divorce lead to an inheritance dispute?

If you fail to update your will after getting married or divorced, there is a greater chance someone may launch a family provision claim upon your death, as your final wishes may be unclear.

For those who want to pursue an inheritance dispute, the best option is to contact a contesting wills lawyer who can give appropriate advice on the next steps.

Launching a claim is a big decision, especially at an already stressful time. However, if you feel you haven't been adequately provided for in a will, then you could be eligible for a greater share of the deceased's estate.

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