When making a Will your legal marital status is very important and can make a big
difference to family inheritance and tax.
If you are:-
Single, even if you live with a ‘partner’ as ‘common-law’ husband and wife, the only
people to inherit from you (unless you say differently in a Will) will be your blood
relatives. Your partner might be able to challenge the situation on the basis that
they had become financially dependent upon you - but that involves the courts, along
with a guarantee of expense and uncertainty of outcome.
Getting married, then the act of marriage automatically revokes all existing Wills
(unless the Will has very specific instructions to the contrary to show that it was
made in anticipation of marriage).
Married, then your spouse would receive much of your estate even without a Will -
but NOT necessarily all of it (see Intestacy) .
Separated or in the process of getting divorced, then there is no change to inheritance
- you spouse will still receive exactly the same as when you were living together,
unless you update your Will.
Divorced (that is right through to granting of Decree Absolute, not just a Decree
Nisi), then your existing Will remains totally valid but your ex-spouse is treated
as if they died on the day of the divorce (so if named as Executor they could not
act in the role and any gifts to them in the Will would fail)
Previously widowed, there may be major inheritance tax savings available but only
if you make a special type of Will to exploit the transferable Nil Rate Band
Changing your marital status is a significant life event - you should update your
Will at that time to match your changed circumstances.
Only if you are legally married can you exploit ‘spouse exemption’ to avoid inheritance