Wills and Second Marriages
Posted on 29 Apr 2021
The rising number of second marriages and blended families has led to an increasing number of disputes over Wills in the last few years.
In fact, a third of all marriages in England and Wales are between couples where one or both spouses have previously been married. Whether the previous marriage ended in death or divorce, most of these couples will have children from previous relationships. The situation can be particularly difficult when children are involved.
The question is, what happens to our estate when we divorce / remarry and what can we do to ensure that all our loved ones are adequately provided for?
When one dies without a valid Will in place, they are said to have died intestate. A strict order of people is entitled to benefit under the intestacy rules. A surviving spouse inherits a statutory legacy of £270,000.00 and half of the remaining estate, outright. In such cases, the deceased spouse’s assets then form part of the surviving spouse’s estate and would therefore pass under the terms of their Will/intestacy, on their death. In some cases, this arrangement would be fine. However, in cases where there are children from a previous marriage, it would potentially mean that they inherit nothing at all.
Many people with existing Wills believe that there is no need to prepare a new Will when they remarry. However, all is not as it seems. Most people are unaware that marriage automatically revokes a Will. In such cases, the intestacy rules set out above would still apply.
It is also important to note that if you do make a new Will, simple mirror Wills between couples on their second marriage are unlikely to be sufficient, particularly if they have children from their previous relationships. By simply making outright gifts of assets to each other on the first death, spouses are running a very real risk of disinheriting their own children and costly and long-running disputes often arise as a result.
It is not surprising that couples feel conflicted between their need to provide for their present spouse and their wish for children from their previous relationship to receive an inheritance. With careful Will planning, this can be achieved.
The most common way of mitigating the afore-mentioned risk is to implement a form of Trust within your Will.
A typical trust arrangement would allow a surviving spouse to benefit from assets without legally owning them. A Trust can therefore ensure that the surviving spouse is adequately provided for whilst ring-fencing the capital for the future benefit of the deceased spouse’s own children.
If you would like to minimise the risk of disputes upon your death, and ensure that all of your loved ones are adequately provided for, please speak to one of our Will specialists today for a free initial and without obligation meeting.