Don’t forget the rings – or the will!

Writing a will might not be at the top of your wedding checklist, but there are some very good reasons why it should be…

Of all the things that an engaged couple put on their wedding checklist, drawing up a will is not the first one that comes to mind. However, unless you have made your will in contemplation of the marriage taking place then the act of marriage will revoke any will that exists at that time – so if either of the couple already have a will, they will need to consider the implications of this. For those who have never prepared a will, it’s the perfect time to take stock of their affairs, and set out their wishes in black and white. If you die without a valid will, your estate might not be shared out in the way you would hope.

The legal phrase used to describe someone who has died without having a valid will in place is ‘intestate’. Their estates will be distributed in accordance with the legal rules of intestacy, which set out how their estate will be shared out It is a blunt tool, as it forces certain assets belonging to the person who has died to pass to their spouse, with the rest, if the deceased has children, being shared between those children and the spouse. The rules of intestacy do not recognise the concept of the common law spouse or cohabitees, and also do not include step-children – all of these groups may find that they will receive nothing from the deceased’s estate.

The rules of intestacy deal neither with issues of guardianship, nor of safeguarding the deceased’s property for a particular person in the future – for example, to leave something to their children should their spouse remarry. The rules also do not allow a couple to make tax efficient decisions as to the disposal of their assets.

To ensure that your estate is dealt with in the way that you would want it to be, a new will can be prepared ‘in contemplation of marriage’. Such a will is not revoked by the marriage taking place, and both of you can set out your wishes on issues such as guardianship for minors, separation of assets, rights for the spouse to remain in the joint family home, and the financial provision for children from previous relationships or parents.

At Fraser Dawbarns LLP we are experienced in dealing with all aspects of will preparation and can advise you fully on the issues involved, so you can have a will that is as tailor made for you and your family as the bride’s wedding dress is for her – and at a fraction of the cost!

by Harleen Hanson from the Kings Lynn office