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Remarrying couples often unaware that marriage revokes a Will

There is a general lack of understanding about writing a Will, and what happens to your estate if you don’t have one, but another aspect that very few people are aware of is that a Will is automatically revoked if you subsequently get married.

For first-time married couples this is largely not an issue as they will often tend to write a Will after they are married and start to acquire assets or have children. However, people entering into a second marriage, who are typically from an older generation, or those who simply left it late in life, will quite often have written a Will previously. They will have perhaps shared with the family what their Will provides for and the beneficiaries will have an expectation of an inheritance of some kind. However, any Will written prior to the marriage will be revoked, unless the Will was specifically written in contemplation of marriage and with the express wish that the Will should not be revoked by the marriage.

It is because of this rule that there are cases like that of Joan Blass, a 91-year-old woman who married a year before her death, resulting in her Will being revoked. Control of her estate passed to her husband, despite her daughter Daphne Franks having a Power of Attorney on behalf of her mother. Mrs Blass had vascular dementia when she married Colman Folan, who is 24 years younger and had moved into her home within one month of them meeting. Her family were unaware of what they call a “secret marriage ceremony.” Questions have been raised about whether Mrs Blass had the mental capacity to understand that she was married to Mr Folan, though he has said that he believes that she had the capacity to make that decision.

The case was cited by Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP for Leeds North East when he presented a private members’ bill to the House of Commons entitled the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Consent) Bill. It aims to prevent “predatory marriages” to protect vulnerable adults who lack the mental capacity to consent to a marriage that they are being led into.

One of the changes the Bill proposes is that marriage should no longer revoke a previous will in every case. It also aims to introduce a simple questionnaire test to establish capacity to marry. The second reading of the Bill is due to take place in the House of Commons on 15th March 2019.

In the meantime however, couples should be aware of the rule that a previous Will will be revoked upon marriage and make arrangements to execute a new Will as soon as possible.

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