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The royal wedding: The impact of marriage and changing family structures on Wills and estate administration

Wedding bells will ring for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in a matter of weeks as the royal wedding is due to take place on the 19th of May 2018 at Windsor Castle. The marriage of Prince Henry of Wales and American actress, Meghan Markle, highlights a few important key areas that you should pay attention to, including the impact of marriage on Wills, how the change in family structures is impacting inheritance and the importance of planning ahead.

How marriage impacts Wills

The most notable aspect is how a marriage impacts your existing Will as it could have a significant impact on your wishes after you have passed. 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.

Under the rules of intestacy, 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. 

Another consideration is jointly-owned bank accounts and property as these will automatically pass to the other owner by survivorship.

Many people are unaware of how marriage and other significant life events can impact their Will. It is important to regularly update your Will to ensure it remains valid.

Changing family structures

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. As one of the UK’s leading estate administration providers, we are more frequently seeing people marry more than once, become part of a blended family and emigrate overseas. These changes can make the estate administration process when someone has passed away more complicated, especially in the case of intestacy. That is why we recommend using a professional estate administration service that can take away the stress of handling a loved one’s estate, take on the legal and financial responsibility and help you and your family to move on.

The importance of planning ahead

The changes in family structures call attention to the importance of planning ahead as the number of disputes over inheritance has significantly risen with a record number reaching the High Court. Many of these disputes arise because no Will has been left or the Will has become invalid due to a change in circumstances, such as marriage or divorce.

No matter the value of your estate, your age or status, it’s crucial to plan for the future to ensure your wishes are heard and your legacy is protected after you have passed away. Recent research reveals that a staggering 61% of UK adults do not have a Will, even though 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.

Although Prince Harry and Meghan Markle almost certainly have all of this under control, it raises important considerations for others. If you have any questions regarding Wills and estate administration, call our Bereavement Support Team on 0300 303 9000 for free guidance and advice.