When your relationship changes, what happens to your Will?
Married? Separated? Somewhere in between? Your relationship status changes the validity, or otherwise, of your Will. So too does the death of a former partner. Read on to find out what you need to do, and when, to ensure you protect your assets.
Entering into a new relationship (not formalised by marriage) does not have any effect on your Will. However, over time your partner may develop rights to some of your assets. If you have a Will that does not acknowledge your defacto partner, this could be challenged after your death. Updating your Will (along with considering appropriate relationship property arrangements), is sensible whether you decide to get married or not.
Marriage or Civil Union
The law assumes that any Will you make prior to marrying or entering a civil union is no longer suitable after marriage/civil union. Therefore, your Will is automatically revoked by the Wills Act.
This of course, ignores the reality that the majority of relationships start on a defacto (unmarried) basis for quite some time. Despite this somewhat backwards assumption, this means you need to do a new Will once you are married or in a civil union.
However, as with every rule there is always an exception. If your Will is prepared in contemplation of marriage or a civil union then you do not need a new Will – it continues to be valid after you enter the marriage/civil union contemplated.
End of relationship
When your marriage or civil union comes to an end, your Will remains valid until such time as your civil union or marriage is formally dissolved/annulled. This is the case even if you have a signed ‘Separation Agreement’. Therefore, you should look at changing your Will as soon you end a relationship.
When your marriage or civil union is legally dissolved, any provisions in a Will to your former husband/wife/civil union partner are automatically revoked. Unless, you have made it clear that you want these provisions to remain valid.
When your defacto relationship ends, there is no effect on your Will. Any gifts to your former partner remain valid until you revoke them. Therefore it is important to update your Will if you relationship has ended.
Our estates team can assist with preparing and updating Wills as necessary – to avoid any unintended effects of a change in relationship status.