Estate planning and divorce - what you need to know

Estate planning and divorce – what you need to know

Divorce can be extremely upsetting, and there are many different tasks to attend to before your marriage is formally ended. One of the most important things you do once you have decided to divorce (and there is no chance of a reconciliation) is attend to estate planning.

What happens if I don’t change my will after separation?
If you don’t already have a will in place, you will need to make one, and if you do, it will need to be changed. If you do not take these steps, the consequences for your children could be catastrophic. It can take a substantial amount of time for your divorce to be finalised after you have separated, and if you pass away whilst you are still married to your spouse you could end up leaving them everything.

Could my children be left with nothing?
If you die intestate i.e. with no will in place before your divorce is finalised, the laws of intestacy will come into effect and the first £250,000 in your estate will go to your spouse even though you are separated. Your children will get half of anything over £250,000, with your spouse also getting the other 50%. If you have a maximum of £250,000, your children could be left with nothing whilst your spouse receives everything. If you have no children, your spouse will get the first £450,000 in your estate.

Could my former spouse become the guardian of my children?
Even if you do not have a very large estate, you may leave behind more than expected due to things like insurance policies or property which has risen in value. Making a will is not just about money and assets – if you have young children and are separated from someone who is not their biological parent, they could end up as their legal guardian just because you did not change your will to reflect your new circumstances. However, if you die after the Decree Absolute comes in, your will treats your ex-spouse as if they have also passed away. If you do want your former spouse to be the guardian of your children after your death and you have already divorced, you will need to appoint them in a new will.

Separation and home ownership
If you both own your house as Joint Tenants and you pass away, the property will not become part of your estate and your former spouse will automatically inherit it. If you have no other assets, your children could again be left with nothing. You can work around this by agreeing to be Tenants in Common with your ex-spouse. This means your share of the property can be put back into your estate and you can use your will to leave it to whoever you like. Without a will in place, the rules of intestacy mean that your share will be handed to your former spouse. This is why it’s so important to amend how your house is owned once you separate.

How Miller Reeves can help with estate planning and divorce
At Miller Reeves, we can assist you if you have separated from your spouse and are worried about the chances of your children being left with nothing following your death. A will can provide a great deal of protection from this scenario. To find out more, call today on 0333 300 1882.