Recent Case Of ‘DMM’ Highlights Lack Of Understanding On How Getting Married Changes Wills
Will dispute experts at leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth are raising awareness of how marriage can invalidate a pre-existing will following a case that brought into question having the mental capacity to marry.
The effect of marriage on wills and subsequent will disputes has been thrown into the spotlight following the case of DMM, where a judge ruled that people suffering from mental impairment must understand the financial consequences of marriage.
Mr DMM’s had a valid will which left his estate to his partner of 20 years and his three daughters. When he and his partner decided to get married, the daughters sought to prevent him from doing so on grounds that he lacked mental capacity.
The court held that while Mr DMM did not have capacity to change the provisions of a power of attorney, he did have capacity to marry. The judge noted that capacity to marry requires appreciation of the fact that marriage will invalidate an existing will, but not necessarily what the financial consequences of divorce would be.
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“The case highlights the important but often unknown impact that marriage has on a will. Not many people appreciate that getting married will revoke an existing will,” Nazia Nawaz, a senior associate in the Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth explained. “This was a point raised by the Law Commission in the consultation on wills and whether the law should be changed.”
Under current law, any existing wills are automatically revoked when the person in question gets married. With the will made invalid, then any estate will be dealt with under the rules of intestacy, or dying without a will in place.
Divorce does not reverse the previous action of automatically revoking the will and a new will must be drawn up again upon this event or a will prepared in contemplation of marriage.
Nazia continued: “While most people are aware that divorce can have wide-ranging financial implications it is not often that we hear about its impact on inheritance. With second and third marriages becoming increasingly common, plus younger couples choosing to marry later who may have assets of their own which they obtained prior to the marriage, it is important that couples consider the implications on an existing will they might have in place already.
“A will should be reviewed whenever your personal situation changes and not just at the point of marriage or remarriage. Those with existing wills should consider updating them in line with any changes to their assets or family situation so as to avoid difficult situations down the line caused by out-of-date wills.”