Many people don’t know that when you get re-married your existing will becomes null and void, so you will need to make a new one if you wish to ensure your loved ones are provided for if you die. (NB this is the case in England and Wales and Northern Ireland; it’s different in Scotland – see section below.)
If you don’t have a will, your estate will be distributed under the rules of intestacy, which direct that your spouse will automatically inherit the first £250,000 of your estate and all of your personal possessions. There are more complicated rules if your estate is valued over £250,000, depending on which of your relatives are still alive. (There is a useful tool on GOV.UK to work out who inherits if someone dies without a will.)
This may mean your children will not inherit as much as you would like them to, so it is essential to arrange a new will as soon as practicable after you have re-married. You can, in fact, make a will in anticipation of getting married, in which case your advisor will incorporate a clause stating that the will should be read as though you are already married. However, you may find it simpler to make your new will as soon as possible after you are married.
Providing for your family
If you have children from your first marriage, then you will probably want to make sure that your children and your new spouse and perhaps any step children are provided for in the event of your death. You may wish to consider setting up a trust in your will that will allow your second spouse to benefit from your assets during his or her lifetime with the certainty that your children will receive the assets later on.
Having experienced the breakdown of your first marriage, you may wish to put some plans in place in case this second marriage doesn’t last. A prenuptial agreement would enable you to protect some assets for your children if your marriage breaks down.
If you own your matrimonial home as joint tenants it may be more appropriate to change the ownership to tenants-in-common so that you have greater control over who should inherit your share of the property if you die. With a tenants-in-common ownership your share passes into trust on your death rather than automatically passing to your second spouse.
If you do this you should draw up a Declaration of Trust that sets out each co-owner’s stake in the property so that your children will inherit the right amount. You can also stipulate whether the surviving partner would have the right to continue to live in the property until they pass away or wish to sell. Without this in place, your partner may be forced to sell the property in order to give your children their inheritance.
NB: Home ownership options are similar but with slight variations in terminology and process across the UK. You can find out more in our article: ‘Should we own our home as joint tenants or tenants-in-common?’
Planning for all eventualities can be complex, so it is important to speak to a qualified advisor to make sure you have covered all bases. With proper planning you can ensure that your second spouse and your children are both protected and maintain control over how your assets are distributed on your death.
What about in Scotland?
In Scotland, your will is not revoked upon marriage but it is still important to review your will to ensure everyone you want to provide for is included. In addition, Scotland has different rules in relation to inheritance, with a spouse/civil partner and children entitled to a ‘legal right’ to inherit a set portion of your estate.