The modern family dynamic is no longer an easily constructed image; some marriages end in divorce, others may end with the death of a spouse and very few go the distance into old age. The seemingly obvious loophole that allows marriage to take precedence over a Will could therefore be construed as an archaic and outdated construct.
With the threat of gold-digger marriages increasing, Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP for Leeds North East, has submitted a bill, under the 10 Minute Rule in Parliament, which will aim to eradicate the system that currently nullifies any older Will upon marriage, even if a new Will is never made.
The bill has argued that not all Wills should become obsolete when the donor remarries or enters into a civil partnership.
Additionally, in a bid to modernise the ancient system, the bill will see that all intentions of marriage are displayed online in addition to a physical location. The bill will also look to widen the remit on those responsible for identifying potential incapacity, such as registrars, by providing up to date training.
Whilst it can only be seen as positive that the older generation are remarrying and looking to fully enjoy their lives, there are many unscrupulous individuals that are using the system almost like a loophole to exploit the vulnerable and those lacking capacity.
Mr Hamilton offered an example of one gold-digger who sought a marriage with a 91-year-old woman in his constituency. Despite suffering from vascular dementia, the woman was deemed to be of sound mind and the marriage took place without the knowledge of the woman’s daughter and immediate family.
The daughter claims that, at times, her mother seemed unaware of the union.
In this case, the Will became void after the marriage. Through the current system, the woman’s husband is now entitled to the first £250,000 of assets and all personal possessions, whatever their value. Half of the rest of the estate will also go to the new spouse.
Only the remaining half of what is left will be divided equally between any surviving children or immediate family of the deceased.
The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics from 2015 found that marriages are now at their lowest ever levels, with only 239,020 recorded in 2015. However, men aged over 55-years are increasingly deciding to marry, with 25,000 remarrying in 2015.
Heather Roberts, Will Disputes Expert at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, said: “We often see instances where even if someone has capacity to make a new will after the marriage, they don’t realise that they need to and sometimes are completely unaware their marriage has revoked their previous will.”
“A change in the law is definitely needed to protect the vulnerable elderly from this type of financial exploitation, and the proposed bill is a good start.”
Although the figures for people over 55-years are increasingly deciding to marry, it will be important that the express wishes of the old and vulnerable are not overlooked or exploited by predatory marriages.
Are you aware of exploitative marriages? Will this new bill help protect families from exploitation?