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LEGAL CORNER Changes to marital status and making a will


here have been a number of changes with regard to marriage law since 2004, with the most recent being the introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships in 2019. These changes have been important in providing clarity over legal rights and financial security

when one member of the couple dies. Meanwhile, despite ongoing campaigns, couples who choose not to formalise their relationship can face a great deal of uncertainty when one of them dies if the survivor is not provided for in a will. ‘Cohabiting is no longer seen as taboo, and marriage or a civil partnership simply do not appeal

to many couples,’ says Jessica Wycliffe- Jones, Associate Solicitor in the wills and probate team at Wollens. ‘However, it is important for cohabiting couples to understand that they do not share the same legal rights and financial security as those who have formed a legally recognised union.’ Jessica outlines some of the issues which you need to consider in regard to your will and your marital status.

Different rights under intestacy rules When a person who is married or in a civil partnership dies without a valid will, (called intestate) the distribution of assets will follow rules determined by intestacy law. A spouse or civil partner will

automatically be entitled to the estate, although it should be noted that the full extent of entitlement depends upon whether the couple have had children together, as well as the way in which certain assets are held. Cohabitees, however, do not

receive the same automatic entitlement if there is no valid will, regardless of how long the couple has lived together. As such, a cohabitee may no longer be in a position to remain in the home they shared with their partner, or it might be necessary for them to make a time-consuming and expensive claim against the estate. Implications of a change in marital status on making a will When making a will, there are a number of considerations which will depend upon marital status and any planned changes to this status: If you are a cohabiting couple, it is unlikely that intestacy provisions would reflect your wishes, you need to think carefully about making your wills. If you are planning to get married or enter a civil partnership, the

law dictates that any marriage or civil partnership formed after a will is executed has the effect of revoking the will in its entirety. As such, if you currently cohabit and intend to marry or become civil partners, you must ensure that your wills set out this intention in a legally binding way. If you are in the process of getting a divorce or dissolution, a formal separation can take time. If you do not want your spouse or civil partner to inherit if you die before the proceedings have been completed, you should consider updating your will before receiving your final order. Once your divorce or dissolution has been finalised, any reference to your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner within your will is to be read as though that person died on the date your divorce or dissolution was finalised. It is important to ensure that your will is updated following divorce or dissolution to make sure that it continues to reflect your wishes. Cutting out a dependant ex-spouse or ex-civil partner may not be appropriate in all circumstances, for example if you have been ordered to continue making regular payments to them. This makes updating your will post-divorce or post-dissolution even more vital. For a second or third marriage, you should consider and seek advice on any claim a former spouse or civil partner may have over your estate. A deathbed union or a deathbed will

should never be a first choice but can be a useful option for couples who have not planned ahead. Even so, careful consideration must be given to ensuring that wishes are not made in a panic. Forgetting to update your will in light of a change of circumstances could lead to a claim being made against your estate. How we can help For all couples, it is vital that you understand your legal rights and that you ensure your wishes are properly protected and upheld. For further information, please contact Jessica Wycliffe-Jones in the wills and probate team on 01803 396634 or email jessica.wycliffe-jones@ Your will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign, and we believe that it should receive the care and attention it deserves. We are pleased to be able to offer you a number of will packages, offering fixed fees, from only £250 plus VAT, for the three main types of will we are asked to provide. We have priced these to give you budgetary control and certainty over pricing, whilst meeting your wishes. Additionally, we offer a bespoke service should the packages not serve your needs and also a will review service whereby we can review your existing will and make sure that it still achieves

what you want it to do. Please visit for details of our will service. 01803 213251 AT HARBOURSIDE, 67 THE TERRACE, TORQUAY, DEVON, TQ1 1DP

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