Weddings & Wills

The Post – Legal corner August/September 2019

With wedding season in full swing, many happy couples will be planning the finishing touches to their big day and probably the furthest thing from their mind is making a Will.  However, planning for your future should include considering what life will be like for your loved ones when you die.

Wills should always be put in place, or existing ones reviewed, when you come to significant life events like getting married.  Having a valid Will in place is the only way to ensure that the assets you have worked hard to own during the course of your life such as property, businesses, cash and investments, pass on to the people you choose.

Marriage revokes existing Wills

In the excitement surrounding a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, it is very easy to forget that a Will is automatically revoked when someone marries, which means that it is no longer valid.

This means that if anything happens to you or your new spouse, then your money and possessions will be distributed according to the intestacy rules, you have no control whatsoever over who gets what.  The intestacy rules set out strictly how your assets must be divided between your surviving family members. 

These rules do benefit married spouses and civil partners, but what they receive depends upon whether the person who has died had any children.  It may be especially important to consider the effect of these rules if you have children from a previous relationship

Make a Will in contemplation of your Marriage

If you make a Will in advance of getting married, then it is possible to make your intentions clear and the Will may be written in such a way that it is valid after the wedding or civil partnership ceremony.

Review property ownership

You might need to think about how you own or purchase any property together.  Jointly owned property may be held in one of two ways – as joint tenants or as tenants in common.

Joint tenants have equal interests in the property. When the first owner dies the survivor will automatically own the whole property. When the second owner dies the property passes under the terms of the second owner’s Will or intestacy rules.

For tenants in common, the property is owned in the shares that you decide.  When the first owner dies, the survivor does not automatically get the deceased’s share.  The deceased’s share passes to whoever they specify in their Will, or passes under intestacy rules.

Married couples or civil partners often choose to be joint tenants, so that their spouse or civil partner will inherit their share.  However, a couple may choose to be tenants in common if:

  • you have a child from a previous relationship
  • one party has contributed more to the purchase price
  • one of you is in financial trouble
  • it is beneficial in certain circumstances for tax planning purposes.

No such thing as “Common Law” marriage

If you are not married, and you are living with a long term partner and want to provide for their long time security, then it is even more important that you make a Will, especially if you have children together – there is no such thing as a ‘common law’ marriage.