“Ask A Lawyer” – Effect of Marriage and Divorce on Wills

Those who have married or divorced may want to consider making a new Will.

Unless specifically contemplated in the Will, a previously made Will is automatically revoked upon marriage. The rationale behind this is that a deceased person is expected to provide for his or her spouse and issue, and the effect is that if no new Will is made, the deceased’s spouse and issue will be entitled to the estate due to intestate succession.  To avoid an intestacy, and to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, a new Will should be executed after marriage.

A Will is not revoked, however, upon the dissolution of marriage. A testamentary gift to a spouse is assumed to refer to the person to whom the testator was married when the Will was made, unless it can be proved that a future spouse was intended.  If a Will leaving a gift to a spouse is not revoked after dissolution of the marriage, or a new Will is not made, then a previous spouse may still inherit the estate.  It is important in these situations to consider making a new Will to remove any gifts to previous spouses and to specify the replacing beneficiaries.

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