There are three primary ways in which a Will can be revoked. The first two methods are made with an express intention to do so; either by the creation of a new will or the destruction of the current one. Wills can also be automatically revoked however when individuals marry, but do not state in their will for the document to remain as it currently is after such an event. This third method is problematic in certain cases as an express intention is not necessary for the Will to be revoked. As a consequence, many people are not aware that such a rule exists in law, resulting in intestacy if a new will is not made after the event.
Automatic revocation can be avoided during marriage if the individual states in the will that the document should continue after the event has taken place. For this to be valid however, the individual must also make specific reference to the person they are marrying. It is not possible therefore for an individual to insert a general provision stating that the will should not be revoked by marriage. This can therefore cause additional problems to many prospective couples who must have a clear understanding of the law before going ahead with marriage. Failure to recognise these rules can lead to very unfortunate and unintended consequences.
Alongside marriage, the divorce process can also lead to potentially unexpected outcomes. If a couple decide to divorce, the will itself will not be completely revoked however a gift to the former spouse will lapse. Whilst this may be intended in the majority of circumstances, it may not be the desired outcome in every case. Therefore, unless the individual made the proper alternative provisions in their will to cover this eventuality, the subject of gift will be treated as if the individual died intestate and the gift may not necessarily pass in the manner the individual would have originally intended.
For these reasons, it is important that legal advice is sought when going through a marriage or divorce to ensure that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities in law. At Seatons, we provide clear, easy to understand legal advice at low sensible fees. For more information, feel free to give us a call on 01536 276300.