Does Marriage Cancel a Will?

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Does a marriage cancel a Will

Getting married is a time when we should contemplate our mortality – & review our will(s)…! 

The simple answer is yes, marriage does cancel (aka ‘revoke’) a will.  So, when your wedding preparations are underway, add ‘make a will’ to your list of wedding to-do’s!  Failing to do so will leave any will you have made previously totally invalid.

Whilst this perhaps becomes particularly relevant to second time brides/grooms/civil partners, and is just as relevant for first timers if you have a will in place that you still wish to rely on in the event of your passing.

The law governing marriage and the cancelling of wills is the Wills Act 1837.  It was extended by the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 to include civil partnerships as well as marriage.

Does Marriage revoke the entire will?

Yes, marriage has the effect of cancelling or revoking the entire will – leaving no element of it valid.  This means that you would be deemed to have died without a will (intestate).  The laws of intestacy would then decide who is entitled to what.

Our wills would typically include some or all of the following (ALL of which is cancelled by marriage):

What cancels a Will?

Getting married isn’t the only thing that cancels a will.  Other examples of a will being cancelled or revoked include:

  • new will – when we make a new will it should always include a ‘revocation clause’ cancelling previous wills
  • destroying it
  • divorce – divorce may cancel our will, but dependent upon the terms of the will, it will not necessarily cancel all of it

Does Marriage Cancel a Letter of Wishes?

No.  A letter of wishes does not have the same legal standing as a will, and is just as it says – a letter setting out wishes (ie not binding anyone legally).  The notion therefore of a letter of wishes being cancelled does not really apply.

How do I stop Marriage Revoking my Will?

You can avoid the automatic cancelling of your will (when you marry) if you make the will ‘in contemplation of marriage’.

This requires the will to state that you are to marry and that it is your intention to NOT allow the general law to apply (ie that would otherwise revoke the will).  However, this cannot be a limitless open ended clause that lasts forever ‘just in case’.  It must name the person you are to marry, and ideally give a date (as near as you can).  The marriage should then take place reasonably soon after the will that you have made in ‘contemplation of marriage’.

What does a Contemplation of Marriage clause look like?

A will made in contemplation of marriage would have a clause in it something like this:

THIS WILL is not to be revoked by my intended marriage to [name] taking place on [date]  

Does Divorce cancel a will like Marriage?

No, unlike marriage, divorce will only cancel the bits of a will made that refer to your former spouse.  Other parts of the will remain valid – unlike marriage which cancels the whole will as if you have just ripped it up!

Check out our article on Does Divorce Revoke a Will?

Free Legal Guide on Wills

Thank you for visiting QLAW – the home of all things legal.  We hope you’ve found this guide helpful.  Do remember that this is just a guide, so if you need legal advice on this or any other topic – do reach out to our expert solicitors.  You can call, email us, or leave a comment below.

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