Wills and divorce – effects and steps to take

10th March 2015 by


All adults in the UK should make a Will. If you are married or have dependants, a valid Will is extremely important because if you die without a Last Will and Testament in place, the state will decide who gets what of your property and assets. Many UK citizens believe that everything will automatically pass to their spouse upon death, but this is not necessarily the case, and having an up-to-date Will can really help during what will be an emotionally stressful time for your loved ones.

Healys London Divorce solicitors are often asked by clients if separation and divorce will affect a Will, so this article will aim to demystify the impact that dissolution of a marriage or civil-partnership will have on a Will.

What to do if you have not made a Will and you are getting divorced

Make one. Simple. If you are in the process of getting a divorce the law automatically allows your spouse to receive, at least, part of your estate. When you make a Will during ongoing divorce proceedings you can state how you wish your estate to be administered and divided. Plus you can make provision for the care of your children and even appoint a guardian.

If you have a Will, you may wish to change it

If your Will includes your spouse as a beneficiary, and you are undergoing a divorce, you may wish to change details in the document as all provisions contained therein will apply until the decree absolute is ordered by the court.

If the Will names your former spouse as the sole beneficiary and the divorce is finalised before you alter it, your estate will be treated as if you have died intestate and you will not have control over who benefits and what they will receive.

When the court orders the decree absolute (the finalisation of the divorce) or dissolution of civil-partnership it will have four predominant effects on a Will. These are:

  • If the Will names the former spouse as executor or trustee, the effect will be as if he or she had died on the date of decree absolute;
  • Any power of appointment made in your Will in respect of a former spouse will be treated as if he or she had died on the date of decree absolute;
  • Any appointment of the former spouse as guardian to children of the union will be revoked; and
  • Any gifts of property, or interest in property, to your former spouse will be treated as if he or she had died.

If you have officially separated, this will have no bearing on your Will and all its provisions will remain intact in the event of your death.

Any time you have a major change in your life you should revisit your Will and make alterations (codicils) as you see fit. However, any codicils must be witnessed and signed appropriately in order to be valid – always consult a solicitor for Wills to be certain you have carried out the necessary legal requirements.

Avoid inheritance disputes after divorce by talking to Healys London divorce Solicitors

Under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 a former spouse, including a judicially separated spouse, can bring a claim against your estate if they feel that you have not made reasonable financial provision for them.

Healys London divorce solicitors, alongside our Wills solicitor colleagues, can help and advise clients regarding provisions you might wish to make in your Will on divorce.

Whilst the family law can advise you on details of divorce, our colleagues in the Wills and Probate department will be happy to help should you wish to draw up a new Will or amend an existing one.

To find out more about how the divorce solicitors at Healys LLP please call our London offices on 020 7822 4000. Alternatively, for family law advice in Brighton, please call 01273 685 888.

We look forward to helping you.