Why you need a new Will when you remarry

Second or even third marriages are increasingly common in the UK. I attended a wedding only last week where both partners had been married twice previously and had a combination of grown-up children, younger children and existing stepchildren.

While it was a joyful occasion it got me thinking about the complicated arrangements the couple should be making with their Wills to ensure everyone in their new blended family is looked after when one or both of them dies.

Existing Wills are cancelled when you remarry

Surprisingly many people do not realise that when they get remarried their existing Will is cancelled. In effect if you die and don’t have a new Will in place the Rules of Intestacy will apply.

Ultimately, unless a new Will is drawn up to reflect your wishes for the new marriage, the following intestacy laws will apply to your estate on your death.

  • If you were married with children (from either or both marriages), then your surviving spouse will receive the first £270,000 of the estate and all personal chattels. The remainder will be divided equally between your spouse and your children in equal shares to be held in trust until they are 18.
  • If you were married but did not have any surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, your entire estate would pass to your surviving spouse.

This can have implications for your blended family. For example, your home may end up jointly owned by your second spouse and your children from your first marriage.

It should therefore be high on your agenda to write a new Will for both yourself and your spouse as early as you can in your new marriage. It is far more preferable to do it at this stage than risk a family row after your death.

It is only by creating a new Will that you can be sure that your wishes for your new spouse, your former partner, your children, any new children and step-children will be followed on your death.

A new Will for a new marriage

You need to think very carefully about how to word your Will, particularly if you have children from a previous relationship, and ensure you have thought through all the implications of for example, leaving everything to your new partner.

Commonly, people who have re-married say they want to leave everything to each other, then when the second person dies, share everything equally amongst their children. But if you die first, how can you be sure that this will actually happen?

After your death your spouse is perfectly entitled to change their Will, remarry or have further children with a different partner. Even if you have an understanding between you, your spouse doesn't have to respect this and can remove your children as beneficiaries from their Will.

Even with the best of intentions, your spouse might incur significant debts which could significantly reduce your children's inheritance. But there is a way of protecting the children from a previous marriage.

Making provisions for your children

Like most people you probably want your children from previous relationships to receive an inheritance when you die, therefore you will need to make a Will that protects their interests while also providing for your spouse.
This is where Trust Wills are important. There are various types of trusts that you can put into your Will. In particular, life interest or property trusts are options commonly used by people embarking on second marriages.
If you put your assets in a trust, they are kept separate to your spouse's assets, so they can't be given away under their Will.
For example, you can set up a trust that lets your spouse benefit from your assets during their lifetime but, after their death, they will be distributed to your children (or whoever you choose).
This would mean that after you die your spouse could live out their remaining days in the house you shared, but when they die the house, or your share of it, would be passed to your children.
You’ll see that even this simple example throws up all kinds of questions. And as everyone’s circumstances and wishes are different it is difficult to say in a blog exactly what the correct solution for you would be.

Take some advice

What we I can say is that it is very important to get the right advice from experienced. professional Will writers who know exactly what the options are and can help you and your new partner to write a Will that ensures all your loved ones are provided for after your death.

At Savigny we believe that everyone should be treated with respect, kindness and receive a caring personal service. We are happy to spend time with you, understanding your needs and answering questions that will help you to work out the correct solution in a potentially complicated situation.

Going back to my example in the first paragraph I know that the new husband and wife have 4 former partners, 7 children and 3 grandchildren between them, their arrangements aren’t simple so taking good advice is crucial for them to provide for all of their loved ones in their new Wills.

It may be the last thing on your mind as you embark on a new life together but for the sake of your family and to protect them from an ugly dispute in the future take the time to get some advice from Savigny and write your new Will now.

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