I have heard so many stories during this Covid-19 pandemic, that have broken my heart. So many dream holidays postponed indefinitely, celebrations and events that we’ve been looking forward to for years cancelled, but it’s the stories of couples who have had their wedding plans totally scuppered that have never failed to bring a tear to my eye. My sympathy goes out to all of you, young couples and second timers, and sliver splicers. It just does not seem fair.
On top of this disappointment, you are living with the uncertainty of not knowing when you might be able to have your big day. Some will have put on hold your plans to start families, or some will have children who have been deprived of playing bridesmaid or page boy to Mummy on Daddy on a day that was to have sealed your family unit. I hope your day will come, very soon.
At a time when we are all conscious of our mortality, we must also pay some serious consideration to what it would mean for your family if the worst happened, and you were unexpectedly taken from your loved ones If you have been delaying making your will until after your marriage (because existing wills become invalid afterwards, even if the beneficiaries are the same), you are likely to not be providing your family with the necessary protection. This is the perfect time to write a will that will endure beyond the signing of the marriage register, but it is very important you do it in a specific way and with specialist advice. The answer lies in the “Contemplation of Marriage clause”.
OK, so it’s not a particularly romantic Christmas present for your betrothed, but it does send a message of serious intention that your proposed marriage will go ahead, at the same time as providing the protection your family needs.
Making a Will in Contemplation of Marriage is effectively the inserting of a clause stating that the Will has been made in the full knowledge that a marriage to a specified person is happening within a reasonable timeframe, and this subsequent change in status will not render the Will invalid. Section 18 of the Wills Act 1837 allows a Will to be drawn up “in contemplation of marriage to a particular person”. From 2005 this was extended to also include civil partnerships.
A Will in Contemplation of Marriage means your subsequent marriage will not revoke the Will. This is particularly important where you have children from a previous relationship, or any children under the age of 18 (either together or with a previous partner). You will need to appoint guardians for your minor children, and if your children are grown up, a will can help avoid family disputes after you are gone.
If you have no Will in place, or your previous one has been revoked upon marriage, upon your death, your estate will be distributed by the Intestacy Rules. This means your spouse may not be entitled to anything from your estate, or certainly not to everything as you would specifically want it. The same applies to stepchildren, friends and godchildren, as your estate would be distributed simply to certain family members. Creating a Will in Contemplation of Marriage ensures your loved ones receive your estate exactly how you would want them to.
And finally, a note of caution to those non-believers of the institution of marriage (or civil partnership), rightly or wrongly you currently do not have the tax advantages that your married counterparts do. The Nil Rate Band for Inheritance Tax cannot be transferred between unmarried partners. This could mean that ultimately some of your estates’ assets could end up being taxed twice – at 40% no less. Perhaps this might be enough to get you down to the registry office? Alternatively, there is a trust that you can add to your will that aims to achieve a similar outcome, but this will require specific guidance based on your individual circumstances.
You should seek specialist advice when planning a Will, and particularly where a Will in Contemplation of Marriage applies. The 1837 Act may seem outdated and far too traditional, but it still applies by law, and it is important that the Will you create follows specific guidance and that the wording is clear and unambiguous.
If you have marriage plans and you are concerned about making a Will, or if you have a valid Will that needs to be revised to satisfy this scenario, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be more than happy to help.