“Till death do us part”: divorce and probate claims
Divorce means two major things for probate: it invalidates major Will provisions, and it can heighten the chance of someone making a claim on your estate.
It has never been a more relevant and pressing concern. There has been a significant increase in divorce among older couples, with nearly 10% of those over 65 now having separated from a former spouse. Just to make family life even easier for everyone, this has led to numbers of disputes over inheritance rising commensurately, too, a number of law firms are now reporting.
According to one firm, Hugh James, approximately 490 high-profile inheritance claims were settled in the High Court in 2012. This number rose all the way up to 861 the subsequent year.
The Office for National Statistics states that the proportion of men over 60 who divorce each year went up by nearly 75 per cent from 1993 to 2013.
As the statistical occurrence of infidelity among the older population has increased, and with the number of older people in casual cohabiting relationships nearly rising twofold over the last decade, divorce rates have risen among older people.
Another complicating factor is that in nearly a third of marriages today, either the bride or groom has been married before.
What does this mean for probate?
For one thing, gifts to a former spouse become nullified by divorce. You need to update your Will quickly after divorce to avoid unforeseen havoc.
Also, a divorced spouse may still make a claim under statute law, despite this separation. If, as above, a Will gift to an ex-wife is now invalid, she may be left penniless where she would otherwise have had some support from the testator. She could easily make a claim as a dependant.
If you have divorced or are contemplating this, you must be sure to get the correct advice on your Will, as well.