Baby boomer remarriages – is your will up to date?

Thursday, 07 January 2021
STEP, the global professional association for practitioners who specialise in family inheritance and succession planning, today urges remarried couples with complex family arrangements to ensure their wills are up to date, as analysis shows that couples from the remarriage boom of the 1990s and early 2000s are now likely to be entering retirement.
  • Figures show remarriage rates reached all-time highs in the 1990s and early 2000s
  • Getting married automatically revokes previous wills, which can cause problems later
  • STEP calls on couples to seek professional advice and ensure they are up to date

STEP, the global professional association for practitioners who specialise in family inheritance and succession planning, today urges remarried couples with complex family arrangements to ensure their wills are up to date, as analysis shows that couples from the remarriage boom of the 1990s and early 2000s are now likely to be entering retirement.

According to the Office for National Statistics, remarriages in England and Wales reached all-time peaks of up to 46,000 per year 1 in the late 1990s and early 2000s – the period when the post-war baby boom generations hit middle age 2. After this unprecedentedly high period of second and even third marriages, the number of unions where at least one partner was previously divorced then declined steadily again to just 18,924 3 in 2019 – the lowest since 1977.

Members of the baby boomer cohort are now in or approaching retirement, so it is more important than ever that remarried couples in that age group ensure their wills are up to date. Marriage or civil partnership automatically revokes any previous wills (except in Scotland – see notes to editors) which can make providing for loved ones more complicated and even lead to conflict over assets when multiple sets of children are involved.

Couples who are currently considering divorce should also think carefully about their wills. While divorce does not automatically revoke your will, it can leave it in a mess because it will be read as though your ex-spouse is not in it. And in the days/weeks/months leading up to your divorce, your will is still valid. So, if you die prior to the decree absolute, your spouse will inherit in accordance with your will. If this is not what you want, you may wish to review your will as soon as you are aware that you are going to get divorced.

The first weeks of January are when divorce enquiries reach their peak in the UK as lawyers and relationship charities experience a surge in referrals and there is a spike in internet searches for divorce after Christmas4. STEP always recommends speaking to a qualified advisor about the impact of divorce and remarriage on any existing estate-planning arrangements to ensure all angles have been considered.

Emily Deane, Technical Counsel at STEP, said:

‘Thirty years ago saw the start of a decade-long boom in second marriages, but many people don’t realise that marriage or civil partnership automatically revokes any previous wills they might have had.

‘In complex families this can cause real issues and even conflict between different sets of children when a parent dies. It’s all too easy to put off writing your will but this January is the perfect time to make that resolution and get it sorted.

‘At the moment people may be worried about social distancing, but wills now can be witnessed by video conference if necessary, following a change in the law last year.’

[ENDS]

Notes to editors

  • Marriages where one or both partners had previously been divorced increased steadily throughout the 1970s and 1980s, enabled by legislative change and shifting social attitudes 5. In the 1990s, these remarriages entered a peak period and topped 40,000 each year between 1991 and 2006, with the highest ever total of 46,128 recorded in 2004.
  • As of 1 November 2016, Scottish succession law was amended in relation to divorce and wills so that it echoes the position in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. Unlike in the rest of the UK, however, in Scotland your will is not automatically revoked on remarriage, and there are different rules in relation to inheritance, with a spouse/civil partner and children entitled to a ‘legal right’ to inherit a set portion of your estate.
  • Previous research from STEP has shown that trusts are increasingly being used by people who marry for a second time and want to leave assets to their new spouse but also protect the interests of their children from a previous marriage6.

Contact details:

For more information on any of these issues, or to request an interview with Emily Deane, please contact Nick Reading or Caroline Merrell at Citigate Dewe Rogerson: 020 7638 9571

About STEP:

STEP is the global professional association for practitioners who specialise in family inheritance and succession planning. STEP works to improve public understanding of the issues families face in this area and promotes education and high professional standards among its members. STEP members help families plan for their futures, from drafting wills to issues surrounding international families, protection of the vulnerable, family businesses and philanthropic giving. Full STEP members, known as TEPs, are internationally recognised as experts in their field, with proven qualifications and experience.