There are many reasons to update a will, and chief among these are marriage – either remarrying or getting married for the first time – and separation.

Catherine Hamilton, solicitor at WHN, examines some of the issues and what can be done to ensure loved ones are properly taken care of.

What happens if I marry and haven’t made a new will?

If you marry any existing will is revoked, meaning you do not have a valid will and your estate will be dealt with under the intestacy rules.

Under these rules, if the estate is worth up to £270,000 your spouse will get the entire estate; if the estate is over £270,000, your spouse will receive the first £270,000 and the remainder will be divided between your spouse and your children. This could result in your children receiving less than you would want – or possibly even nothing – from your estate.

However, you can make a will before the marriage which makes it clear the marriage is not to revoke the same.

How can I ensure my children from a previous relationship are provided for?

A common concern for those remarrying or getting married for the first time, is protecting the interests of their children from a previous relationship.

In your will you can spell out how things are to work, providing certainty for those involved. For example, there could be a trust in relation to your house. This would allow your new spouse to live there for life but on his or her death ensure the children inherit the property.

What if I am separated or get divorced?

If you are separated then your current will is still valid, no matter how long you have been separated for. If you divorce then when you get the decree absolute, any will made before the divorce will still be valid.

Many people will have made a will before the divorce appointing their spouse as an executor or beneficiary either alone or jointly with their children. A decree absolute means that your former spouse is completely removed from your pre divorce will – however, gifts to any other beneficiaries will still be valid.

If your former spouse was the only beneficiary of your estate in your pre-divorce will, then the intestacy rules apply as there is no one else to inherit the estate.

If you live with a new partner and are not married to them, they will not qualify to benefit from your estate under the intestacy rules.

What should I do next?

As can be seen, there are many problems which can arise as a result of marriage.

To ensure that your final wishes are met, and that your loved ones will inherit how you want them to do so, it is vital to draw up a new will – at the latest – immediately after your marriage (and ideally make a will in contemplation of marriage beforehand) setting out who you want to inherit.

Anyone who feels they need to make changes to their will should contact their solicitor for help and advice.

Catherine Hamilton is a solicitor based at WHN Solicitor’s Haslingden office. Catherine helps advise clients on issues related to wills, probate and powers of attorney. To contact Catherine, call her on 01706 213356 or email