Divorce, going through a legal separation or currently co-habiting and not married?
If you have divorced, making a Will or amending a previously made Will is strongly recommended. Article 13 of the Wills and Administration Proceedings (NI) Order 1994 does state that any gifts to former spouses will be treated as though a former spouse has died on the date of divorce.
Whilst the Northern Irish legislation does ensure that Divorce prevents a former spouse from receiving any previously determined assets in your Will, this can lead to gifts failing and parts of your Estate being distributed under the laws of Intestacy, taking away your control of how you wish to deal with your Estate and could mean you Will is not how you would have liked it.
It will also often be the case that if you had prepared a Will prior to Divorce, that you have appointed your spouse as one of your Executors, or perhaps as the sole Executor in your Estate. If this is not amended, your former spouse will have to renounce their executorship in the event of your death, which could result in further distress and tension for your family, as well as additional cost time and costs.
If you decide not to legally Divorce but separate from your spouse, it is still vital that you create a Will. Under the laws of Intestacy (the laws that determine what happens if you don’t make a Will), your former spouse will be entitled to a majority share of your Estate, regardless if you are separated at the date of death.
Similarly, if you are co-habiting with your partner and are not yet married or do not intend to marry, should you wish for your Estate, or part of your Estate, such as your home to be left to your partner, it is imperative that a Will is made as cohabitees are not immediately entitled under law to a share in the Estate.
It is always recommended that the contents of your Will are revised with any change in your circumstances.