Many people are unaware of the ways by which Relationship Changes can affect their will. Relationship status changes can affect the validity of your written will in many cases but the most prominent ways are;
• Entering into a new marriage or civil union
• Getting Divorced, and
• De facto Relationships.
Entering into a New Marriage or Civil Union
Entering into a new marriage or civil union may automatically invalidate your existing will and that will leave you “Intestate”. The state of being in an Intestate is a situation whereby you pass away without leaving a will. If you passed away intestate, then a relative, friend or an organization such as a Public Trust will have to apply to the High Court of Justice for the right to distribute your properties and this procedure is also referred to as the “Letters of Administration”. This legal procedure can be time-consuming, confusing and very expensive hence it is better to avoid it.
If you have an existing will already but getting married or entering into a civil union with someone, you will have to update the will as soon as you can. The reason being that if the will is not assumed to be created based on that marriage or civil union, then it will automatically become void Under the Wills Act, once a marriage or civil union happens. In this situation, any gift or wishes included in your Will shall be automatically canceled and you could eventually pass away Intestate. There are several unintended consequences in terms of who receive what in your property, and funds you left behind.
You need to reconsider what you want from a new relationship and see how it will affect your current Will. If you are planning to have new children with a new partner after divorce, then you may have to write a new Will if you want the new kids to be gifted some of your properties when you pass away. There is no automatic inclusion of an individual in an existing, valid Will, therefore a new Will must be made to accommodate new beneficiaries anytime your status changes. You may want to speak to a family attorney because this aspect of Will preparation can be complicated in most cases.
Getting Divorce Can Affect the Status of Your Will
If you have an existing will and have become separated from your spouse or partner, you may have to review the terms of such separation to ensure that it reflects every wish you have made in your will.
If there has been a dissolution of your civil union or marriage, then your will should be valid. Please keep in mind that the dissolution of a marriage or civil union may not happen until you and your partner have been separated for a minimum number of years. Your will is also valid if you have obtained a separation order from a family court. Until the dissolution of your marriage happens, all gifts and other components of the will in favor of your ex-partner will not be revoked even when you pass away.
The De Facto Relationships, and How They Affect Your Will
Interestingly, the beginning or the end of any de facto relationship will not void or affect a Will in the same manner a marriage or civil union may affect the Will. This simply means that if your de facto partner gets a gift in your will and then you separate from her later, the gift for her in your Will, may not be revoked unless you change your Will.
It is very important to look at your Will on a regular basis to be sure that it remains what you want and t be sure it still applies to your situation.
Your Will as a whole will remain valid when you get divorced, but any gift meant for your ex-spouse will not be valid in the Will. In this situation, the gift on the Will may automatically pass to any alternate beneficiary that has been included in the Will. You can always update your Will to reflect any changes made, based on your new relationship status. You can also make different arrangements for your beneficiaries, just in case some of your properties that you intend to leave for them has already been divided between you and your ex-partner.
If you get married after a divorce, any Will you made before the marriage will become invalid, and you will have to make a new Will. Crossing out words or marking, when making changes to a Will is not allowed, if you do this, there may be a significant problem, hence it is safer to create a New Will entirely.
One other thing you need to consider when you review your Will is the appointment of Testamentary Guardians, especially for your children. Simply put, the Testamentary Guardians are those people you choose to play an ongoing role in the lives of those children until they reach maturity, and just in case you pass away. Appointing a testamentary Guardian does not grant them the right to take care of the children, such appointment will only give them the right to play big roles, especially in decision making, as regards your Will when you pass away. These roles may include guiding them on ways to use the gift in your Will sensibly.
In summary, it is quite important that you reveal your will, whenever there is an important life change, especially the changes in your relationship status, acquiring a new asset or having children. To make things better, you should consider getting legal advice so that you will clearly understand what happens as regards your Will when you pass away. Not updating your Will before you pass away, may create serious challenges to your Estate or any other component of your Will. Your Will must always reflect your wishes regardless of your relationship status before death.
It is also important that you consider all legal and administrative fees you will incur on the process of updating your Will from time to time.