Aside from the obvious increase in the number of Covid-19 related deaths in the UK, we have all heard about the post lock down rise in the rate of pregnancies and divorces. Whilst this is somewhat tongue in cheek, it is true to say that social distancing measures, home-schooling and the vast uncertainty of the current situation has increased pressures on relationships.
Divorce lawyers frequently see a spike in cases following periods in the year where couples are forced to spend more time together. September, after the summer holiday break, and the New Year after the Christmas period being prime examples of this.
Add into the mix, the financial instability that has struck many families as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, then it is perhaps unsurprising a spike in divorces is expected.
What effect will divorce have on my Will?
The key thing to note is that as well as marriage invalidating a Will, divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership also has an effect on your Will.
As the Society of Will Writers notes:
Where a person makes a Will and subsequently divorces, has their marriage annulled or dissolves their civil partnership then their former spouse or civil partner is deemed for the purpose of the testator’s Will to have died on the date that the marriage or civil partnership ended.’
Section 18A of the Wills Act 1837 as amended by the Law Reform (Succession) Act (Succession) Act 1995 s3(1)
This means, in reality, if your Will names a former spouse or civil partner as an executor, they will be unable to take up this position. If they had been awarded any gifts in the Will, these would go to the substitute recipients. In the event there were no other beneficiaries named in the Will, (bar the former spouse or civil partner), the estate would be subject to the laws of intestacy.
How often should I review my Will?
Aside from the impact of divorce, it is worth reviewing your Will after any significant life event and whilst it is not a rule of thumb, it is also worth reviewing every five years.
If you have experienced a substantial increase or decrease in wealth, you should review your Will. For example, you should check your Will if you buy or sell a home (or other property), if you start or sell a business, or if you inherit any money or property. In such circumstances, there may be tax consequences that need careful consideration. Even small alterations could mean you want to change how your assets are dispersed.
Please get in contact if you wish to discuss your estate planning or any changes to your Will. Our financial advisers and their professional legal contacts will be able to assist you in all areas of your estate planning.