I’ve been through a divorce – how will this affect my will?
It’s an unfortunate fact that some marriages end in divorce. Divorce is a difficult, stressful time of upheaval and change, and it can be a struggle to keep on top of things.
With so much to think about, it’s easy to forget about how your divorce impacts on your will – and the consequences this might have should you die without making changes to your plans.
In this post, we take a look at what happens to your will following divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership, and show you what you can do to ensure that your new wishes are followed.
How divorce affects your will
The moment the “decree absolute” (for marriage) or “decree of dissolution” (civil partnership) comes through from the court, any benefits your former spouse would have received in your will are revoked. From that point on, they won’t be eligible to inherit anything from you.
From the point of view of your will, your ex-spouse is treated exactly as if they had died. This means that any gifts you’d made to them in the will fall back into the residue of the estate, for the benefit of the other beneficiaries. If you had named your former spouse as an executor of your will, they are also removed from this role.
So do you need to change your will?
Whilst your will is still completely valid after divorce, and these rules do protect your assets from falling into the hands of your former partner after your death, there are real risks to leaving your wishes unchanged.
For a start, if you’ve left all your assets to your former spouse in your will, and you die after the divorce, then your estate will be treated as if you’d died intestate (without a valid will). This could mean that your estate is divided up in ways you never intended.
The likelihood is that your wishes in terms of beneficiaries and executors will change significantly after divorce, and you’ll need to set these out in your new will to ensure that they are followed.
Divorce also has an impact on other wealth planning arrangements. If your spouse was appointed as a trustee of a trust for the benefit of your children, or as a guardian to children from previous relationships, then divorce will end these arrangements, and you may need to make alternative ones.
When you can change your will
You don’t have to wait until the decree absolute comes through to change your will. Because divorce doesn’t invalidate your will, it’s best to set out changes as soon as you separate. That way, in the event that you die before your divorce is finalised, you’ll be able to prevent your ex-partner from benefiting.
Remember, changing your will is completely separate to any maintenance payments your partner may be entitled to as part of the divorce.
The next steps
The important message to take from this is that after separation, during the divorce proceedings, or as soon as possible after, you need to take another look at your arrangements and have your will updated professionally by a trusted solicitor.
The sooner you make changes to your will, the less likely it is that your ex-partner will benefit in the event of your untimely death.
Want to know more about any aspect of wills, inheritance or probate? Download our Ultimate Guide to Wills and Probate today.