The Royal Wedding: how marriage impacts Wills and changing family structures

The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marks many historical changes for the royal family. Meghan is one of a few Americans and the first black woman to be welcomed into the royal family; she has previously been divorced which in the royal family’s past has been frowned upon by the Church of England. It is not only in the royal family that we are seeing changes in family structures in the UK. We are more frequently seeing people marry more than once, become part of a blended family and emigrate overseas. Changes like these can make the estate administration process when someone has passed away much more complicated, especially when no Will is present.

An important aspect of getting married is what effect the marriage has upon your existing Will, as it could have a significant impact on your wishes after you have passed away. When a marriage takes place, any existing Will becomes invalid as it is automatically revoked. If you were to pass away after you had got married but before you created a new Will, your estate would be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This means your spouse or civil partner would not automatically receive all of your estate if you have children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Your spouse or civil partner would receive the first £250,000 of your estate and then half of everything that is remaining above that amount. The other half would be distributed to your children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Any joint bank accounts and property held as joint tenants will also automatically pass to the other owner by survivorship outside of the intestacy rules.

By way of illustration if you die without a Will leaving a spouse, 2 children and an estate of £450,000.  Your spouse takes your personal effects and £250,000 plus half of the remaining £200,000.  The children take £50,000 each when they reach 18.  If the children decide that they want the money straight away your spouse could be forced to sell the property they are living in.

No matter the value of your estate, your age or status, it’s highly important to make plans for the future to ensure your wishes are heard and your legacy is protected after you have passed away. Creating a valid Will and keeping it up-to-date is the only way to guarantee that your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes.

Sue Jenden – Sue Jenden Associates

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