11 April 2019

I’m getting divorced – should I change my will?

For newly separated parents, there are a number of challenges associated with parenting apart, not least who lives with whom, and when, and the possible disagreements about Christmas and birthdays. But what about planning apart for the death of one or both parents? All of a sudden, family dynamics can change dramatically, and relationships with wider family such as grandparents, become strained when the question of guardians arise.

Most divorcing couples will be advised to make wills as part of the divorcing process, and will usually discuss the terms of their own will with their individual advisers, but there are some decisions that would be better dealt with in collaboration between both sides.

The appointment of guardians is a key issue. Remember you cannot appoint a guardian over the head of a living parent, no matter how unsuitable you consider their parenting skills to be.

If a formal guardian order has been made, however, then it’s the guardian who must make a will to pass on that role on their death.

Making a will also ensures not only who your estate passes to, but also allows you to set an appropriate age at which children can inherit. The rules that apply when you don’t leave a will automatically provide that children inherit at 18, yet most parents would be horrified to learn that their children would have full control over their wealth at such a young and potentially vulnerable age.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure writing a will is on your ‘to do’ list when finalising the terms of your separation, and that you talk to your co-parent about a joint decision that is in the best interests of your children.

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About the Author
Nerys Thomas, Solicitor
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