Wills for Second Marriages with Children
11 March 2021
When you get married, any existing Will you have automatically becomes void (unless you've included specific wording in your Will to prevent this). Under inheritance rules, your new husband or wife would automatically be entitled to inherit all (or most) of what you own. If you have children from a previous relationship, they would inherit nothing, or very little.
If you want to ensure that your children inherit from you when you die, you should make a new Will setting out your wishes.
Marriage and inheritance law
If you are getting married, it's very important to know two things:
- Your previous Will is immediately revoked when you marry, unless it was made 'in contemplation of' your marriage
- Unless you have a valid Will in place which states otherwise, your new husband or wife will stand to inherit the first £250,000 of your estate, and half of the remaining estate, if you die first and have surviving children.
These inheritance laws apply (in England and Wales) regardless of whether you are entering your first, second or third marriage. They also apply even if you have children from a previous relationship. This is because under the Rules of Intestacy, your spouse is given priority over your children and so will be the main Beneficiary.
This means that if you don't have a valid Will in place when you die, your spouse could receive everything, and your children could inherit nothing or very little.
Second marriages and Wills
So, it's important for you to consider making a Will (or a new Will) when you get married.
You need to think very carefully about how to word your Will, particularly if you have children from a previous relationship. Commonly, people who have re-married say they want to leave everything to each other, then when the second person dies, share everything equally amongst their children.
But if you die first, how can you be sure that this will actually happen?
Please be advised that, after your death, your spouse is perfectly entitled to change their Will, remarry or have further children with a different partner. Even if you have an understanding between you, your spouse doesn't have to respect this and can remove your children as beneficiaries from their Will. Even with the best of intentions, your spouse might incur significant debts during their lifetime, such as care home fees, which could significantly reduce your children's inheritance.
Providing for children from a previous marriage
If you have children from a previous relationship, you need to think through the potential consequences of getting married or re-married. Ask yourself – do you want your children to receive an inheritance? If the answer is yes, then you need to make a Will that protects their interests while also providing for your spouse.
This is where trust Wills come in. There are various types of trusts that you can put into your Will. In particular, life interest or property trusts are popular amongst those entering into second marriages.
If you put your assets in a trust, they are kept separate to your spouse's assets, so they can't be given away under their Will. You can set up a trust that lets your spouse benefit from your assets during their lifetime but, after their death, they will be distributed to your children (or whoever you choose).
So, for example, you could give your spouse a life interest in your house, meaning they could live out their days there. When they die, the house would be passed to your children.
Wills for second marriages
Second marriages can create a real dilemma when it comes to inheritance, but there are solutions. Our professional Will writers can provide guidance, explaining how to ensure that all your loved ones are provided for after you pass away.
At Co-op Legal Services we offer fixed fee Wills and Trusts. Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done, that price will not change.