The royal wedding: how marriage impacts Wills and changing family structures

Wedding bells rang for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the royal wedding which took place on the 19th of May 2018 at Windsor Castle. The recent marriage of Prince Henry of Wales and American actress, Meghan Markle, highlights a few important key areas including the impact of marriage on Wills, how the change in family structures is impacting inheritance and the importance of planning ahead.

An important aspect is how a marriage effects your existing Will as it could have a significant impact on your wishes after you have passed away. When a marriage takes place, any existing Will becomes invalid as it is automatically revoked. If you were to pass away after you had got married but before you created a new Will, your estate would be distributed following the rules of intestacy. This means your spouse or civil partner would not automatically receive all of your estate if you have children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Your spouse or civil partner would receive the first £250,000 of your estate and then half of everything that was remaining above that amount. The other half would be distributed to your children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Any joint bank accounts and property will also automatically pass to the other owner by survivorship.

The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marks many historical changes for the royal family. Meghan is the first Black woman to be welcomed into the royal family, one of a few Americans to marry into the family and she has previously been divorced which in the royals past has been frowned upon by the Church of England. It is not only in the royal family that we are seeing changes in family structures in the UK. We are more frequently seeing people marry more than once, become part of a blended family and emigrate overseas. Changes like these can make the estate administration process when someone has passed away more complicated, especially when no Will is present.

No matter the value of your estate, your age or status, it’s highly important to plan for the future to ensure your wishes are heard and your legacy is protected after you have passed away. Creating a Will and keeping it up-to-date and valid is the only way to guarantee that your estate is distributed as per your wishes.

For more details on updating or creating a Will, please contact us.

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