Whatever your relationship status, you might have questions about whether you need to make a will. We take a look at some of our clients’ most frequently asked questions on the effect of getting married (or divorced) on your will.

I’m not married. Will my partner inherit my estate?

If you die having not made a will (known as ‘intestate’), your belongings and money (known as your ‘estate’) will pass according to the Intestacy Rules. These set out who will inherit, depending on your family circumstances. For example, if you are not married and do not have children, your estate will pass to your surviving parents. Your partner will not inherit.

If you make a will, you can choose who will inherit your estate. This could be one person, or many people or charities. If you would like your partner to inherit on your death, you will need to make a will.

I am married, do I still need a will?

We would certainly recommend that you make a will when you get married.

If you do not have a will, again, the Intestacy Rules will apply. If you are married and do not have children, your spouse (or civil partner) will inherit your entire estate.

However, if you are married and have children, your spouse will keep all your belongings, plus your assets (including property) up to £250,000. The rest of your estate will be split in two: half to your spouse, the other half to be split equally between your surviving children. This does not include any children your spouse has from a previous relationship.

Again, making a will means that the people you would wish to benefit will do so. Further, if you have children you can appoint someone to be their guardian, and someone to look after your children’s inheritance. You can read more about the benefits of new parents making a will here.

I made a will before I got married. Do I need to change it?

When you get married or enter into a civil partnership, any previous will becomes invalid. There is an exception, which is where you made your will ‘in contemplation of marriage’. This means using specific wording in the will showing you intend for the will to still be valid after the marriage to that person.  If that’s not the case, even if you are still happy with the contents of your previous will, it will no longer be valid. We recommend making a new will either before or as soon as possible after your wedding.

Does marriage affect Inheritance Tax?

Yes, there is an Inheritance Tax (IHT) benefit to marriage / civil partnership.

There are two main IHT thresholds:

  1. The Nil Rate Band (NRB): this is the amount that anybody can leave to anyone they wish without paying IHT. It’s currently £325,000; and
  2. The Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB): this can only be used against equity you have in a residence which is passing to ‘lineal descendants’. This means children, grandchildren, step-children and their spouses. It is currently £150,000 and due to increase to £175,000 in April 2020.

Anything that you leave to your spouse or civil partner is completely exempt from IHT. Also, any unused NRB and RNRB can transfer over from the estate of the first spouse to die to the survivor’s estate of the survivor. This means that the IHT provisions for married couples and civil partners can be much more generous than those of unmarried couples.

Does divorce affect my will?

Many people assume that divorce will revoke your will. However, it does not. Your current will remains valid. However, for inheritance purposes, your ex-spouse / civil partner is treated as if they had died when your marriage or civil partnership was dissolved.

We recommend that you make a new will to reflect your change in circumstances. Make sure that the people that you would wish to see benefit from your estate do indeed inherit. For example, in reviewing your will, you can ensure that you provide for any new partner. You can also make provision for all children of your previous relationship and any future relationship.

Planning for the future is important at any stage in life. We recommend that you review your will regularly, and certainly on any major life events such as marriage, divorce or having children. We offer a free will review service and can let you know whether you need to consider amending your will or making a new one. Call us today on 0800 988 7756.