Getting divorced: why should you update your will

Going through the process of divorce or dissolution from your spouse or civil partner can be one of the most stressful and emotional periods of your life, even when the relationship ended on good terms.

Given the amount of time and technicalities involved in the process, it is natural for people to want to wait until the divorce is finalised by way of decree absolute before considering amending their will. However, even the simplest divorces and dissolutions can take between 6 to 9 months to complete and should you, unfortunately, die during this time, then your ex-spouse or civil partner can still inherit your assets under the terms of your will or under the rules of intestacy - meaning that your intended beneficiaries miss out.  

What happens to my will when I get divorced? 

When your divorce or dissolution is finalised, your will is not automatically revoked as it is when you get married or enter into a civil partnership. Instead, your will operates as though your spouse or civil partner died on the date the decree absolute or the dissolution of the partnership was issued. This means that any gifts made to your spouse or civil partner will not be affected and if they have been appointed as your executor then your reserve executors will act in their place.

What happens if I die during a divorce? 

If you die during the divorce or dissolution process without making a will and you do not have any children then your ex-spouse or civil partner will inherit your entire estate. If you do have children, then your ex-spouse or civil partner will receive the first £270,000 of your estate, plus any personal chattels, as well as half of your residuary estate outright. The other half of your residuary estate will be divided between your children.

However, even if you do take steps to protect your assets by way of a will, it is possible for your ex-spouse or civil partner to make an application for provision from your estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Although the ability to make such a claim can be waived as part of the divorce or dissolution settlement.

Find out more about divorce or ending a relationship.