We are frequently asked - do I need to change my Will after divorce? The focus is usually on immediate worries, such as the arrangements for the children, the household bills and the family home. Although it is necessary to get advice about such matters, it is equally important to think not just about the past, the present and the immediate future, but also to plan ahead and think about how divorce and separation can affect your Will.
- If you separate from your spouse but die before you are divorced, your ex will have a claim on your estate, either because you have an existing Will that has not been changed, or under intestacy.
- After divorce although your spouse cannot claim under intestacy. However he/she might still be able to claim under an existing Will, if it has not been updated and there is no separation agreement signed to say that no such claim will be made.
- If you have not married and your partner dies without leaving a Will, you have no automatic right to claim on the estate - an application may have to be made to the court for a capital sum. That must be done within a very strict time limit of three months.
- Don't forget pensions they have nominated beneficiaries and it is important to contact the pension trustees to change what will happen to the pension. Children can be substituted for an ex spouse. Unmarried couples have no automatic rights to claim the other's pension and provision would have to be made for that prior to death.
- Life policies should not be overlooked always check whose life is insured and to whom payment would be made in the event of death.
- Title to the matrimonial home is often taken on what lawyers call a 'survivorship destination' which means that when one person dies the other automatically owns the whole house. Steps can be taken to have that changed, if both separating spouses are in agreement. That would then mean that each spouse's share of the house would pass in the event of their death to the beneficiary nominated in their Will.
- If a separation agreement or a court order makes provision for regular payments from an ex partner, think about what would happen if the person paying were to die. The loss of that support could have significant consequences should you be taking out insurance to cover that possibility?