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Wills and Your Spouse

If you’re married or common law, you may be curious about what kinds of wills are available for you and your spouse. Likewise, you may wonder how a marriage or divorce affects a will, since, believe it or not, a change in your marital status can cause drastic changes to your will. To understand better how this process work, we’ve outlined some important topics concerning wills and your spouse: 

What are Mirror Wills?

Mirror Wills are two separate wills created for spouses, which include reciprocal terms so that they mirror one other. As an example,  John and Lily are a married couple who are creating mirror wills. In this scenario, Lily would leave everything to John in her will and John would leave everything to Lily in his. For a will to be as mirrored as possible, everything else should be the same. Therefore, executors, beneficiaries, and alternate distribution plans (where your estate goes if you and your spouse die at the same time) would match. Either party is permitted to change his or her will at any time (which is typically the case when one party dies or there is a marriage breakdown). 

Can I make a Mirror Will with My Spouse?

The quick answer – Yes! After all, mirror wills are very common between spouses.  That being said, be sure to discuss the pros and cons related to these wills with your lawyer before finalizing your decision. 

What Happens to My Will if I get Married?

A will made prior to marriage will automatically be revoked by your marriage unless your will was made in “contemplation of marriage”. For a will to be made in contemplation of marriage, it should contain a statement referring to the upcoming marriage and the name of the spouse. If this is done, it will remain valid once the testator is officially married. 

What Happens to My Will If I get Divorced?

Unlike marriage, your will is not automatically revoked following a divorce. Instead, only the parts of the will concerning your former spouse are revoked. This means that a former spouse referred to in your will can no longer be your executor  and any gifts left to him or her will typically pass to the other beneficiaries or alternate beneficiaries. As this can make for a messy situation (and any will, regardless of how well it is drafted, can be contested), it is recommended that you make a new will and revoke all previous ones upon getting divorced. 

What Happens to My Will If I get Separated?

Simply put, absolutely nothing. Wills are unaffected by a separation even if that separation has lasted for years and both partners have moved on. Until an official divorce is filed, the will is entirely valid. Therefore, we recommend updating your will as soon as possible after a separation has taken place.

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