What happens to your Will if you get divorced or end your civil partnership?
When you divorce or end your civil partnership your former spouse/civil partner is treated as having died before you. Your former spouse/civil partner will not inherit anything from your estate unless your Will specifically stated that divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership would not affect the gift that was detailed in the Will.
In addition, if you had named your former spouse or civil partner as an executor in your Will (ie the person who collects in all your assets, pays off your debts and distributes your estate) they will not be able to act as your executor once you are divorced or after you have ended your civil partnership. If you had appointed your ex as your sole Executor, without any provision for a replacement, this would have to be rectified upon your death, which could cause delays and unnecessary costs.
Making a new Will
Unless there is good reason to the contrary the best time to make a new will is after decree absolute and after all outstanding financial issues have been settled. That is so that any future claim of an ex spouse can be properly quantified
It is especially important to make a will to ensure that your children are properly provided for.
Divorce also affects guardian appointments in a will. If the couple getting divorced have children together, and not from previous marriages, then the remaining parent shall continue to have responsibility for those children as that parent also has parental responsibility for those children. If there were children from a previous partner, and the wife, for example, had appointed the now former spouse as guardian in her will, this appointment would fail. The former spouse was not the biological parent of the child and therefore does not have parental responsibility for the child. He (or she) cannot be automatically empowered to continue to parent the child; he has to be chosen by the mother in her will. When this couple divorce, this appointment fails. If no other person is appointed, it shall be for Social Services to assess who is the appropriate adult to parent the child.
For further information about making a Will, please contact a member of our Private Client department for expert and professional advice.
Hayley Ford – Partner/Solicitor – Private Client Department.