If you’ve recently separated from your spouse or civil partner, you may need to write your will to make it clear where you want your estate to go.
If you don’t have a valid will, the law in England and Wales means that your spouse or civil partner may be entitled to your entire estate if you die – even after you have separated. If you have children, some of your estate may go to them, but your spouse will still be entitled to the majority.
After you separate, this law continues to apply until the divorce or the civil partnership has legally ended. This is true right up until you receive the final paperwork – either the decree absolute or the final order for dissolution. If you want to make your wishes clear then you must write a valid will to this effect.
If you already have a will in place then you should certainly consider whether it needs to be updated in light of the separation. Your existing will may make your spouse the primary beneficiary of your estate. It’s important to know that this will continues to be effective even once you have separated.
When you’re going through a separation, you’ve probably got a lot to deal with, and dying is unlikely to be on your to-do list. However, if you were to die during this period, then all of your money and property may go to the spouse or civil partner you’ve just separated from.
If you want to make it clear that this is not what you want then you can write a will specifying where you want your estate to go in the event of your death. You should also write up a letter of wishes, which is just a short note explaining that you’ve excluded your spouse or civil partner from your will as a matter of choice, following your separation.
If you’re still unsure what your future holds or you’re hopeful for a reconciliation, it is still worth writing your will. You can always change it again in the future.