Making a will does not have to be complicated, time consuming or costly. It is however, important that your property and personal items end up with the person or people you would like to have them. There are defining events in your life that will affect the validity of your will and as you update your social media account, so to you should attend to making sure the changes taking place in your life do not affect the way your estate will be distributed.
So, if you have a will and you have had a recent major event in your life, such as a birth or death, you married, entered into a civil partnership or de facto relationship or divorced or you acquired or disposed of property, then you need to take a moment to review your will and ensure that it will still operate as you intend.
Marriage and Wills
You may be unaware that your Will becomes invalid if you marry and your will was not made in contemplation of that marriage. If your will is invalid, a large part of your estate will be awarded to your spouse. If you have children from a previous marriage/relationship or you wish to provide for another, those bequests will no longer be valid. Your will does not become invalid upon your marriage if it expressly states that it is made “in contemplation of marriage”.
Divorce and Wills
Likewise, if you separate from your partner your will may not operate as you wish. On separation, you must wait twelve months to obtain a divorce and a lot of you will spend a number of years contemplating filing the application for divorce but busy lifestyles will prevail over actually filing. Unlike divorce, marriage separation does not have an effect on your Will and if you pass away during the time between separating and obtaining a divorce, then your spouse may inherit any property you left to them while contemplating a lifetime of love and family. Similarly, if your Will names your spouse as your executor, they will be entitled to take up that role regardless if you wanted them to or not.
On the date your divorce becomes final, that divorce will act to revoke any appointment of your former spouse as your executor and/or revoke any gift left them. This may affect the distribution of your gifts and cause an inequality that you did not intend.
However, this does not occur if the courts believe you intended to leave your former spouse a gift or if you re-published the Will after the divorce without changing the executor appointment or gift.
Does being in a de facto relationship affect my Will?
Entering into a de facto partner does not impact on a Will in the same way as marriage. But as time passes in a de facto relationship, certain property rights arise in and you and your partner each develop rights to the other’s property. These rights may conflict with any wishes you have set out in your Will. Upon separation, if you pass away before a property settlement between you and your de facto partner is finalised then it will be your partner who ends up with your property and other beneficiaries you may have intended to receive property from your estate will miss out.
So, as you update your relationship status in life, take a moment to review your will and ensure that it will operate as you intend in the circumstances.