The Effect of Marriage on Your Will
Through all the preparations of a upcoming marriage, it is important that details of your estate planning not be overlooked. As part of your preparations for this new chapter in your life, what effect does your marriage have on the will you drafted months or years prior to your marriage? Changing wills after marriage is a wonderful, and sometimes emotional, step people take together. Often changing wills after marriage is the first big joint long time life decision people make after a wedding. The lawyers at Kahane Law Office in Calgary, Alberta are sensitive to the emotions and challenges these changes can raise.
What Changes Are Needed In Wills After You Get Married?
There are a few obvious issues that should be looked at:
- Is your new spouse named as your beneficiary, or one of your beneficiaries?
- Does your spouse have an existing will naming you as her/his beneficiary?
- Do either of you have children from a previous relationship who should be named as co-beneficiaries along with your new spouse?
- Have you named an executor other than your new spouse, and is this still your preference?
Aside from these obvious questions, it is also important to consider the law in this area. Changing wills after marriage takes time to make these decisions together. Since each family and family dynamic is different, your wills & estates lawyer can help you navigate the challenge of deciding what is right for you new family.
Alberta’s New Wills & Estates Legislation
In 2012 Alberta passed new wills legislation which introduced some substantial changes regarding the effect of marriage (and divorce) on wills. The guiding principle in the drafting of this new legislation was that the testator’s wishes, provided they meet certain legal criteria, be acknowledged and carried out. With the new laws, many people will need to make changes after marriage to protect their new spouse.
Wills Made in Contemplation of Marriage
Before the change in law, a will made in contemplation of marriage was required to state that within the will, this is no longer the case. A will failing to address that it was being prepared in contemplation of marriage would previously have potentially made the gifts therein void. It was as if there was no will. Fortunately this has been amended in the new legislation. It is no longer a requirement that the testator state that the will is being prepared in contemplation of marriage. The testator’s wishes for their new spouse will be carried out regardless. However, for people who had wills prior to their wedding, the is a need for changing wills after marriage.
Dower Rights Supersede (Beats) the Will
If you own real property at the time of your marriage, but choose not to add your new spouse to the title of the property, she or he still has an interest in the property in the form of a life estate. This means that if you as the property owner pass away, the dower rights of your spouse to remain in the home for the remainder of her or his life will supersede any bequest of the real property you have made in your will. The beneficiary of the real property will have no choice but to wait until your spouse gives up their dower rights or passes away. Changing wills after marriage does not change this law.
Maintenance and Support
As a testator you have the right to leave your property to whomever you wish. However, your spouse (as well as other family members) can exercise the right, in the event she or he is left nothing in the Will, to make a court application for maintenance and support. Any such Order will override the testator’s wishes as outlined in the Will, with such maintenance and support being paid out of the estate.
Take a Practical Approach When Changing Wills After Marriage
Many of the issues to be addressed when considering the effect of a marriage on your will simply require a practical approach. Will you change your name when you get married? Is it important to you and your spouse that you have mirror Wills to reflect your joint intentions? Have proper provisions been made for your estate to be appropriately divided between your new spouse and your children from a previous marriage?
In answering the above questions you may find that your existing will is entirely adequate, or you may determine that an update to address practical concerns is in order. Speak with a qualified Wills & Estates lawyer to fully understand the effect of marriage on your existing estate plan. Changing wills after marriage may be required for your wishes to be legally binding.
Lawyers in Calgary For Changing Wills After Marriage / Weddings
The wills & estates lawyers at Kahane Law Office in Calgary, Alberta are pleased to assist you in drafting your will and estate planning documents after your marriage. We can step you through your options and help you make decisions about changing wills after marriage. You can reach us toll-free at 1-877-225-8817, 403-225-8810 locally or email us directly here.