Planning a wedding can be incredibly demanding and time-consuming. We know that writing a Will is unlikely to be high on your agenda. However, it is important not to overlook the fact that getting married is a significant life event that has legal implications for your assets.
If you die without a Will, the law will govern the distribution of your estate. This can have unexpected results that may mean your new spouse and family may not benefit in the way you intended.
This blog aims to tackle the problems that the intestacy rules create for married couples below.
The act of marriage revokes all existing Wills
As soon as you say I do, any existing Will previously signed will automatically be cancelled. You and your new spouse will have lost control of who benefits from your estate. The rules of intestacy now apply, until you make a new Will.
Problem 1: If you are survived by your spouse but no children
If you die without a Will and children, your spouse will inherit your entire estate. While this may not come as a surprise, many people do not consider what happens next.
Once your spouse inherits your estate, they can dispose of it however they want. If they remarry, your assets may pass to their new spouse.
If you and your spouse die together and it is impossible to tell who died first, you will be deemed to have died in age order. This means all of your assets will end up in the estate of whoever is younger and pass to their family (i.e. parents or siblings). Your estates will not be divided 50:50 between your families.
Making a Will can control the distribution of your estate in many different circumstances.
Problem 2: If you are survived by your spouse and your children
If you are survived by your spouse and children, under the intestacy rules, it is possible that some of your estate will pass to your children.
This can be problematic for several reasons.
Firstly, it increases the risk that an inheritance tax liability will be triggered on the first death. Generally speaking the common goal for married couples is to delay the payment of inheritance tax until the death of the survivor.
Secondly, your spouse may need those assets during their lifetime.
Thirdly, your children will have a right to their inheritance at the age of 18. They may receive assets which they are not financially mature enough to deal with. This presents the risk that they will waste their inheritance themselves or be at risk of manipulation by third parties.
Writing a Will provides you with the opportunity to minimise the inheritance tax exposure, ensure your spouse is provided for and protect your children.
Problem 3: There is no opportunity to benefit people other than your spouse (and children)
The intestacy rules are very rigid; who inherits your estate depends entirely on who survives you and their relationship to you.
Writing a Will provides you with the opportunity to make gifts to friends, wider family and charities.
Preparing for the future is key to any successful marriage. If you want to learn more about the steps required to make a Will and the various Will structure for married couples, please get in touch. Alternatively please do visit our Will page or follow us on social media.
Wills can be prepared in anticipation of marriage.