Navigating Divorce and Estate Planning in England and Wales

Navigating Divorce and Estate Planning in England and Wales

Typically, no one goes into a marriage with the expectation of getting divorced but according to a number of Family Law firms online, 50% of marriages end up in divorce, and this is likely to have profound implications. Its impact often extends to various aspects of one’s life, including estate planning. In England and Wales, divorce can significantly affect the distribution of your assets and the intentions outlined in your Will. In this blog, we will explore the key differences between divorce and separation in the context of a Will, who could be impacted, and the steps someone should take when facing a divorce. We will also provide examples of when things can go wrong and offer best practices to ensure your estate planning remains on solid ground.

The Difference Between Divorce and Separation on a Will

It’s crucial to understand the distinction between divorce and separation when it comes to the effect on your Will. In England and Wales, a divorce will revoke any provisions in your Will that relate to your former spouse. This means that if your Will explicitly leaves assets or responsibilities to your ex-spouse, these clauses will be considered void and ineffective. They are in essence treated as though they have predeceased you. In contrast, separation, which can be informal or formal, does not automatically revoke any provisions in your Will but can still lead to complications.

Who Could Be Impacted?

The impact of divorce on a Will can affect not only the testator (the person creating the Will) but also the beneficiaries and anyone named in the Will. For example, if a married couple has created mirror Wills naming each other as the primary beneficiary, a divorce will change the disposition of the estate, potentially leaving it to someone other than the ex-spouse.

Under the same circumstances but when you separate and don’t divorce, any provisions made for the ex-partner will still be valid.

Steps to Take When Getting Divorced

When going through a divorce in England and Wales, there are several crucial steps to ensure your estate planning aligns with your new circumstances:

  1. Review Your Will: The first and most essential step is to review your Will in light of your divorce. Take note of any provisions that involve your ex-spouse, and consider whom you would like to appoint as your beneficiaries and executors.

  1. Update Your Will: Once you’ve identified the necessary changes, update your Will to reflect your new wishes. This can include naming new beneficiaries, altering asset distributions, and designating new executors. Prestige are here to support with updating your Will.

  1. Consult a Legal Expert: Estate planning can be complex, especially in the context of divorce. Seek the guidance of one of our team who are experienced in English and Welsh succession law to ensure your Will is compliant and accurately reflects your intentions.

  1. Update Other Documents: Don’t forget to review and update other legal documents, such as your Lasting Power of Attorneys, to ensure they align with your new circumstances.

An Example of When It Could Go Wrong

Consider a scenario in which a couple, John and Sarah, have Mirror Wills naming each other as primary beneficiaries. They are still civil, they divorce but still have a good relationship with one another and would like the other to benefit from their estate. Sarah updates her Will but after their divorce, John forgets to update his Will. Tragically, when John passes away, his assets don’t go to Sarah, because the divorce means that in effect Sarah has been considered to predecease him. This is not what either of them wanted despite the split.

Best Practice

To avoid such scenarios, it’s vital to stay proactive and vigilant with your estate planning when going through a divorce. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

– Regularly review and update your Will to reflect changes in your life circumstances.

– Seek professional advice from Prestige Legal Services when making significant changes to your Will to ensure legal compliance.

– Communicate your intentions and changes to your family members and beneficiaries, so there is no confusion or ambiguity about your wishes.

When it comes to divorce in England and Wales, there can be a profound impact on estate planning and your Will. Having read this article, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us on 0333 2072 130.