How Does Marriage and Divorce Affect a Will?

image of wills and divorce at Mullins treacy Solicitors Waterford

In Ireland, marriage revokes a Will unless it was made in contemplation of the union. A divorce does not automatically invalidate a Will, so your ex-spouse could still inherit a share of your estate – unless their succession rights have been renounced or waived.

Does marriage invalidate a Will?

When you get married, any Will that was written before the wedding date is automatically revoked. This means it cannot be enforced after your death. Unless you make a new Will after your marriage, you will be treated as though you have died intestate. Your estate will then be distributed in line with the rules set out under the Succession Act.
The only exception is where the Will is written ‘in contemplation’ of the marriage. You must include specific wording in your Will, if it is to remain valid after you say “I do”. Our solicitors can advise you about this in more detail.

Does divorce invalidate a Will?

Divorce does not automatically invalidate a Will in the same way marriage does. In theory, divorce has no impact on your Will. The document will be upheld following your death and any gifts to your ex-spouse will be honoured, unless either of the following has occurred:

  1. A court has extinguished your ex-spouse’s succession rights by way of a specific court order. This will happen if the court feels he/she has been adequately provided for
  2. Your ex-spouse has formally renounced their succession rights

Where succession rights have been extinguished/renounced, then that portion of your Will must fail and may be dealt with under the Succession Act instead.

What about separation?

But what about if you are not divorced, but you are separated? This is something of a grey area, and it largely depends on whether you are informally or formally separated.

If you have a legal separation, then it is likely that you have both given up your rights of succession. If so, any gifts bequeathed to your ex-spouse in your Will must fail. But if you are informally separated, then your Will remains valid and will be enforced, should you die before divorce proceedings have concluded.

If you do not intend to divorce, or you are not yet eligible to divorce, then you might be concerned about your position. In Ireland, your spouse has considerable inheritance rights, even if you have lived apart for many years. So even if you revoke your Will, the person who is legally considered your husband or wife stands to receive the majority of your estate.

If you do not want your estranged husband or wife to inherit, then you need to put a formal legal agreement in place, in which you both renounce your succession rights.

Make a new Will

The bottom line is that any change in your relationship status has a significant impact on your Will. If you marry, divorce or separate, you need to update your Will. Your current Will may either have been revoked (in the case of marriage) or be unfit for purpose (in the case of divorce and separation).

To get started, please contact us Mullins & Treacy LLP Solicitors. We are client focused and results driven.

Call us on 051 391 488 or email for a free no obligation enquiry. We are client focused and results driven.

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