How marriage, separation, and divorce may impact your estate plan


    By McManus & Co Lawyers

    Starting a serious relationship, getting married, separating, and divorcing are significant life events. They not only carry emotional weight but also have crucial implications for your estate planning and the distribution of your assets on your death.


    If you’re getting married, don’t forget to add ‘update will’ to your to-do list. Marriage automatically revokes your existing will unless it was made in contemplation of marriage. Only gifts and appointments made to your spouse are saved from revocation. This surprises many, leading some people’s estates to be partially or wholly distributed according to the default estate plan devised by the government. This automatic distribution might not align with your true intentions, making it essential to update your will when you marry.


    Whether married or in a de facto relationship, it’s important to understand that separation itself has no effect on a valid will. If a separation occurs after making a will that leaves everything or a large proportion of your estate to your estranged spouse and appoints them as your executor, the will remains valid. In most cases, a person’s intentions change substantially after separation. Therefore, it’s critical to update your will to reflect these changes and avoid unwanted consequences.


    Divorce automatically revokes any appointments and gifts made to ex-spouses unless the will was created with the intention that those clauses remain valid after divorce. However, divorce does not revoke any appointments of the ex-spouse as a trustee of funds left to your children, nor does it affect gifts made to stepchildren or in-laws. To ensure your intentions are clear and avoid potential disputes, it’s essential to make a new will after divorce, specifying exactly who you wish to benefit.

    No will, no control

    If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed according to the default estate plan set out under legislation. If you are married but not yet divorced, and you are survived by your spouse (and perhaps children to that spouse), your spouse will receive your entire estate, regardless of your separation.

    Don’t wait until your family law matters are settled or until the divorce order arrives before updating your will. Coupling or uncoupling without reviewing your estate plan can see your estate distributed contrary to your wishes and result in challenges to your estate. This process is costly, time-consuming, and usually involves much upset and heartache for your surviving loved ones.

    Proactively updating your will at each significant life event ensures your estate is managed according to your true wishes, providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

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    McManus & Co Lawyers
    McManus & Co Lawyers
    McManus & Co Lawyers Suite 103, 1 Thomas Holmes St Maribyrnong VIC 3032 T: (03) 9318 4188

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