Marriage and Wills

Marriage and Wills

Certain events automatically change your current last will. These events include:

  • getting married
  • getting divorced
  • having or adopting children.

In some states, if you get married after making a last will and do not rewrite it after the wedding, your spouse gets a share of your estate as if you had no will, unless you have a premarital agreement, made a provision for your spouse in the will, or stated specifically in the will that you intended not to mention your prospective spouse.

Example: John made his will leaving everything to his brother. When John married Joan, an heiress with plenty of money, he did not change his will because he still wanted his brother to get his estate. When he died, Joan got his entire estate and his brother got nothing.

The two issues involved are whether the spouse can get a share in spite of the will and if the marriage completely voids the will. If you get married and wish to leave your property to someone other than your spouse, you should consult an attorney.

Divorce and Wills

If you get divorced after you write your last will, your ex-spouse is automatically removed from your last will. However, you should probably not rely on this and should rewrite your last will to reflect your changed family and any new arrangements you want to put into effect. If you don't do this, your ex-spouse may contest the last will and your estate will bear the cost of defending against this challenge.

Children and Wills

Generally, if you have a child after making your last will and you do not rewrite that last will, the child will nonetheless receive a share of your estate: it will be as if the last will had never been written.

  • What is a Will?
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  • Leaving Property to Heirs in a Will
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  • Last Wills and Probate Court
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  • Joint Tenancy
    Property that is owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship does not pass under a will. If a will gives property to one person but it is already in a joint account with another person, the will is usually ignored and the joint owner of the account gets the property. The property in the...
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  • Overruling Your Will
    If all property is in joint ownership or if all property is distributed through a will, things are simple. But when some property passes by each method, a person's plans may not be fulfilled. Example 1: Bill's will leaves all his property to his sister, Mary. Bill dies owning a house jointly with...
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  • Tenancy in Common
    Property that is owned by more than one person but not owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship or in tenancy by the entireties is often owned in a tenancy in common. This means that each person owns part of the property (such as one half or one third), and upon each person's death, the...
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