A will should be a true reflection of a person’s final wishes in relation to how their estate is distributed. Naturally, our wishes in relation to this are likely to change as our lives and circumstances change. Births, deaths, the purchasing of property, the breakdown of relationships and the formation of new relationships are common reasons why a person should update their estate plan. Priorities can change and so can our relationships with the people around us. It is important to ensure your will is always an accurate and true reflection of your current wishes.

There are some milestones in life that have an automatic impact on estate planning.  Marriage automatically renders any existing will invalid, unless the existing will was made ‘in contemplation’ of that marriage.

This means that if you die after you are married, and your existing will was not made in contemplation of that marriage, the courts consider you to have died intestate (without a will).

In such events, the laws of intestacy in that state will determine how your estate will be administered. In these circumstances the bulk of an estate is usually passed on to the surviving spouse.

While this may not be considered a negative thing for first marriages, it is likely to produce issues and conflict if there are children from previous marriages or other beneficiaries in the now-invalid will.

If you are about to get married, it may be wise to update your will with specific reference to your soon-to-be spouse. It is important to be as clear as possible, otherwise the courts may not be satisfied the will was made ‘in contemplation’ of the marriage.

Alternatively, you may wish to wait until after the marriage is finalised. Either way, it is crucial to ensure your will is updated with such changes in mind to prevent your assets from being distributed against your wishes, as well as incurring unnecessary tax liabilities for your beneficiaries.

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