Does a divorce revoke a will?

Whatever your age or the size of your estate, it’s always a good idea to have a detailed will or trust in place for when you pass away. Bear in mind, however, is is highly unlikely an estate in it's entirety could be dealt with via trusts - so a will would be recommended. In addition, certain life events might lead you to make changes to your will, such as the birth of a child, marriage, or divorce. It’s important to know what changes are automatically made to your will upon such events, and what changes you will need to make yourself. 

If you’re going through a divorce or have recently divorced, one of your top questions can be: “is a will revoked on divorce?”. Bottom line: your will does remain valid after you divorce, but your ex-spouse will no longer be able to benefit from it. However, this will depend on what you have specifically stated in your will, as some wills might allow the ex-spouse to benefit even after divorce. In this article we look to fully explain in more detail and hope to answer the question: “does divorce revoke a will?” 

Should I make a new will? 

When deciding whether you should make a new will, if you’re married or separating it’s important to understand if or when making a new will is necessary in order to answer the question "can divorce revoke a will?" A good knowledge of how divorce automatically impacts your will may influence your decision regarding whether to completely rewrite it or not. 

When you divorce from a partner, your existing will is not cancelled and will remain valid. Despite this, your ex-partner will no longer be an Executor of this will if they had been originally detailed as one. An executor is not necessarily a beneficiary of a will. So, if you want to prevent an ex-partner from benefitting from a will, then there is nothing you need to do immediately. However, they may still be able to make a claim on your estate, which is an issue we will cover later in the article. 

Other couples decide to judicially separate, rather than divorce. This situation is different to a divorce, and your will remains valid despite separating from your partner. In this case, if you want to protect your estate you should revoke your will and make a new one. 

Can a divorce revoke a will is also a question that comes up if you’re considering remarrying and therefore wanting to make a new will.  While divorce does not revoke a will entirely, remarrying will completely revoke any existing wills that you have in place unless stated to have been made in consideration of the marriage. If you pass away without writing another will, it means that your estate will be handled as if you died ‘intestate’. In other words, the law will dictate how it is divided up. 

When to make a new will? 

The question is a will revoked on divorce may lead on to wondering when might be the right time to make a new will.  If you’re considering changing your will as you don’t want your ex-partner to benefit from it, then you don’t actually need to do anything following the divorce. Your will remains valid, but your partner is removed as a beneficiary. 

However, this has an effect on other areas of your will. Since your ex-partner is now not inheriting from you, these funds and assets will have to go elsewhere. Once your marriage has ended, terms automatically change and anything that would have been passed on to your ex-spouse will be passed on to the next detailed beneficiary. 

So, what happens if you do not have any other beneficiaries in place? Under these circumstances, your estate will be handled as if you did not have a will in place at all, which is known as dying intestate. This means that the law will decide what happens to your assets and money, and the rules of intestacy do occasionally change

Therefore, if you want to have greater control over who will inherit from you after you pass away, it’s a good idea to make a new will naming the people that you want to benefit from it. 

In addition to this, some people stipulate that their partner will remain a beneficiary after divorce. In this case, the answer to the question does divorce revoke a will? is in fact, no. If you wrote this into your will and your position has now changed, then it’s a good idea to write a new will to avoid your ex-partner benefitting from your previous one. 

Will my ex-spouse have any claim on my estate? 

Naturally, those asking does a divorce revoke a will? must also be wondering whether their ex-spouse will have any claim on their estate. As previously mentioned, ex-spouses are automatically removed as an Executor to the will upon divorce. However, this does not mean that your ex-spouse cannot make a claim on the estate. 

If they can provide proof that they were being financially supported by the deceased, then they may have a legal claim on the estate. This may be proven by maintenance payments, for example. 

If you’re wondering how to prevent an ex-spouse from receiving your family inheritance, there is no way that you can prevent this from happening with absolute certainty. The best preparation that you can make is to receive professional, legal assistance to ensure your will is written in such a way to give your executors flexibility to negotiate if needed. These executors should also be prepared for any potential challenges from your ex-spouse. 

Will my previous will before marriage come into effect? 

If you’ve recently divorced, you may assume that your original will from before you were married will come back into effect. However, this is not the case. While marriage revokes previous wills, divorce does not affect your will in the same way. 

When you divorce someone, your will is not, in fact, revoked. It remains valid, but your ex-spouse will no longer be able to benefit from it. This means that the assets and funds you had left to your ex-spouse will be passed on to the next beneficiary, or your estate will be dealt with as if you died intestate if you did not have any other beneficiaries. 

So, in summary, does a divorce revoke a will? The short answer is: no, it doesn’t. However, the situation is more complex than this, and divorce may give you good reason to change your will or even write a new one. 

When you divorce a partner, your will remains valid, but your ex-spouse will no longer be able to benefit from it. This means that any assets left to them will be passed on to the next detailed beneficiary, or your inheritance will be dealt with as if you died intestate. In other words, the law decides what happens to your assets and money. 

Despite ex-spouses being removed from the will, they may still be able to make a claim on your estate after you die. This is especially relevant if they are financially dependent on you, which they may be able to prove through maintenance payments. While it’s impossible to entirely prevent this situation from occurring, you can prepare for it by getting legal advice ahead of time. 

When you’re navigating the complex world of trusts and wills, it’s essential to receive specialist financial advice from a reputable financial adviser, like The Private Office. Get in touch with the team at The Private Office today to arrange a free initial consultation.

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Note: This article is intended for general information and does not constitute individual financial advice. The FCA does not regulate wills, tax, estate or cash flow planning.