If you are getting married soon or have recently separated from your spouse or partner, you may be wondering whether you need to update your will. The short answer is yes. Relationship changes can have a significant impact on your will and, to ensure your property is distributed according to your wishes when you die, you need to update it.
What happens to my will if I get married?
If you get married and do not update your will, your will is automatically revoked. Unless you make a new will, you will die “intestate” and your estate will be distributed in accordance with the Administration Act 1969 as if you never made a will. You can read more about the intestacy provisions and how your estate would be divided under the Administration Act here.
If a will specifically states that it is made in contemplation of a particular marriage, that marriage will not revoke it. However, wills do not typically include this wording so if you made your will prior to getting married, you should obtain legal advice to check whether your will remains in place.
Has my will been revoked by my new de facto relationship?
The commencement of a de facto relationship has no effect on a will. This means if you have an existing will benefiting someone other than your de facto partner, it will remain valid. If you have not made a will, the intestacy provisions will apply. If you would like to provide for your de facto partner, it is important to update your will to reflect this.
What happens if I have separated from my spouse and have not updated my will?
Separating does not change your will unless you obtain a separation order or an order dissolving your marriage from the court.
Once your marriage has been dissolved, your will is not revoked. Instead, your will is interpreted as if your former spouse died before you. This means that they will not be able to act as your executor or take any gifts made to them under your will. Your will otherwise remains in force. While this is helpful, you can only dissolve your marriage after you have been separated for two years. Until then, your estranged spouse can still benefit from your estate and will be able to act as your executor.
Further, if your will has not been updated and you die unexpectedly, it is possible that your estranged spouse will receive their entitlement under any agreement dividing your relationship property as well as any gifts under your will.
For these reasons, it is important to update your will as soon as possible after separation to ensure that it still reflects your wishes.
What happens to my will if I have separated from my de facto partner?
Separating from your de facto partner has no impact on your will. This means, unless you update your will, your former de facto partner can still benefit from your estate and will be able to act as your executor regardless of when you separated. If your former de facto partner is provided for in your will, it is essential to update your will promptly if you no longer wish to benefit them.
If your relationship status has recently changed and you would like to understand how this may impact your will, contact Morris.