This has been submitted by Peter Lynn and Partners
A divorce can be an extremely emotional and often painful time. Although some divorces can be amicable, many can turn in to bitter battles and it is when emotions are high that people often overlook key documents.
Whilst the focus of each couple may include children, homes, assets, and many other important aspects of family life, the most commonly overlooked document is the Will.
Sara Plant, Head of Divorce and Family Law commented:
“Until a divorce is finalised and the Decree Absolute has been issued, existing legal documentation such as a Will remains binding. Unfortunately, this can result in assets and inheritance being distributed to the party you are trying to obtain a divorce from in the event of a sudden death”.
There have been many examples where this has proven true and failure to review your Will or to not have a Will in place can have a serious impact on the inheritance and asset distribution when someone passes on.
Consider the following scenario that has proven true on a number of occasions.
A married couple decides to separate and eventually, both parties settle down with new partners. Neither person wants to remarry so do not finalise a divorce however after a number of years, the husband dies.
His new partner, with whom he has a child, expects the inheritance to be distributed to her however as he had not written a new Will, his assets will not go to his new partner and their child.
Another common scenario is when high value marital assets involved are in the divorce that leads to a long, bitter legal battle.
If one party passes away before the divorce is finalised, their estate is left as per the original Will, often with all assets left to the surviving spouse – a situation which would not have been intended.
In both these scenarios, there is the option to challenge the Will however this can be expensive and time consuming with no successful outcome guaranteed.
What can be done is to update or write a Will once you start divorce proceedings.
If you do reconcile it can always be changed but if one party does pass away suddenly during divorce proceedings, your assets are less likely to end up in the hands of the wrong people.