Your Will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign. Not only do you need to carefully consider what will happen to your estate when you pass away, but you also need to ensure your Will is kept up to date so that it reflects your current circumstances. Doing this will hopefully prevent issues from arising in the future.

There are, however, certain acts which will inadvertently lead to your Will being revoked. One of these acts is entering into a marriage or civil partnership. Unless you make another Will afterwards, marrying or entering into a civil partnership means that your estate will be distributed in accordance with any previous Will or the intestacy rules if you do not have a previous Will. This could lead to your estate passing to someone who you did not want to benefit at all. 

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Revocation of a Will

Sadly, there are some who take advantage of this little-known fact, as shown by the story of Joan Blass. The background is as follows: 

  • Joan was 87 years old and suffering from vascular dementia when Colman Folan, a man 24 years her junior, befriended her. It is understood that he began speaking to her over the garden gate, and this led to her inviting him into her home. After this, Folan became a constant presence around Joan. 
  • Joan would ask questions of her family, such as who he was. They tried to seek help by contacting the police and Social Services, but they were advised that Folan was living at the property at Joan’s invitation. There was, unfortunately, nothing the family could do. 
  • Unbeknown to the family, Folan had secretly married Joan only five months before her death. Although Joan had a Will, the marriage automatically revoked the Will, something she was likely unaware of. Even had Joan been aware, she may not have had the capacity to make a Will as a result of her dementia. 
  • After Joan’s death, aged 91, in March 2016, Folan suddenly revealed that they had been married, much to the family’s surprise. This meant that not only did Folan inherit Joan’s entire estate under the intestacy rules, but he was also in charge of her affairs. This included her funeral arrangements – he arranged for her to be buried in an unmarked grave. 

Intestacy rules

As mentioned previously, a marriage automatically revokes a Will. And because of this, upon marriage, the pre-existing Will is no longer valid. The effect of this is that the intestacy rules would apply if a new Will was not drafted, and the new spouse would become the substantial beneficiary. 

Currently, the intestacy rules mean that the spouse would receive the first £270,000 of the estate and all the personal possessions, whatever their value. They would also receive 50% of whatever remains, with the other 50% being divided between surviving children (or their children if they have already died). 

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Reviewing a Will

If someone has a Will before getting married, they should review their Will in contemplation of the marriage. It is better to review it before marriage than leave it until afterwards. Unfortunately, in the case of Joan, this was not possible.

Whilst we hope that no other family will have to go through this, it seems unlikely given we have an increasingly elderly population with dementia cases on the rise. It is important that people know about Joan’s story so that they are aware of the consequences of marrying/entering into a civil partnership, as well as the warning signs to look out for in a case such as this.

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If you have any more questions or would like more information regarding the revocation of wills, please get in touch with our Contentious Probate Solicitors

0161 941 4000