Effect of marriage and divorce on Wills

Firstly Divorce…

It should be noted that a will is NOT revoked on divorce, BUT

  • Any provisions appointing the former spouse as an executor or trustee take effect as if the former spouse had died.
  • Any property or interest in property bequeathed to a former spouse passes as if that former spouse had died.
  • Any gift to the former spouse lapses.

41099799 - portrait of a displeased couple sitting back to back on couch

Learning point. If anyone gets divorced they should rewrite their Will as the above can have unintended consequences. Don’t assume that the divorce lawyer will have considered updating the Will. In our experience this doesn’t happen. More often than not, the divorcee wants to get this changed if only to make a clean break from the past.


  • Under s18 of Wills Act 1837 (our favourite bit of legislation) a will is automatically revoked on marriage.
  • However under s18(3) you can make a will in “contemplation of marriage” to a certain named person. That Will is not revoked by marriage if the intention not to revoke the will is clear.

17161210 - just married couple sharing romantic moment

Learning point. One day someone can have a valid will, next day no valid Will, simply by marrying. We all see the point in this, as the new spouse should be considered. However in the modern world couples that are living together need to ensure that if they ever have a thought of marrying then they should write a will in “contemplation of marriage”. When you are enjoying wedding plans you generally don’t think about your death!┬áThe same applies to second marriages. A new will is not something that would be on your mind.

All of the above applies to same sex marriages despite the photo images!

In summary, any change to your relationship status, should be accompanied by a review of your Will. Simple stuff, often overlooked….