A recent news story in The Sunday Times has highlighted the importance of updating your will when you remarry. The case involves three brothers who are now in a legal dispute with their stepfather, after their mother's will was deemed invalid due to her remarriage. This unfortunate situation can serve as a stark reminder for all adults in the UK to review their estate planning and make necessary changes upon remarrying to ensure their loved ones are protected.
Sam Monahan, 29, and his two brothers, aged 25 and 17, were expecting to inherit approximately £100,000 each from their mother, Dawn. She had split her estate equally between her three sons in her will. However, after Dawn remarried four years ago, her will became invalid, leaving her sons with only about £9,000 each. The family is now embroiled in a legal battle with their stepfather over the division of their mother's £305,000 estate.
Marriage and Wills in the UK:
Under UK law, marriage automatically revokes a will, unless the will was made 'in expectation of marriage'. This means that if you have an existing will and then get married, your previous will is no longer valid unless you specifically stated that you were making the will with the knowledge that you would be getting married. In the case of the Monahan family, Dawn's remarriage invalidated her will, leaving her children at a significant financial disadvantage.
The Importance of Updating Your Will:
The Monahan family's story serves as a cautionary tale for adults in the UK who may be planning to remarry. To avoid a similar situation, it is crucial to review and update your will upon remarriage. Here are some key steps to take:
- Seek professional advice from an estate planning expert, who can guide clients through the process of updating wills and ensure that it is legally valid.
- Make a new will: Create a new will that reflects your current wishes and includes provisions for your spouse, children, and any other dependents.
- Include a provision for marriage: If you are engaged and drafting a new will, include a statement that the will is made 'in expectation of marriage' to your fiancé(e). This ensures that the will remains valid after you tie the knot.
- Regularly review your will: life changes, and so should your will. Periodically review your will to ensure that it continues to reflect your wishes, especially if you experience significant life events, such as the birth of a child or the acquisition of new property.
The Monahan family's legal dispute serves as a reminder of the risks associated with not updating your will when you remarry. To protect your loved ones and ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes, consult a professional and update your will upon remarriage. By staying vigilant and proactive in your estate planning, you can avoid unnecessary heartache and legal battles for your family in the future.
It is also worth remembering that divorce does not necessarily invalidate a will and under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 relatives may be able to challenge a will if they are excluded.
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