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8 August 2017 | Comment | Article by Eleanor Evans TEP

Wills in contemplation of marriage

Wedding season is well and truly underway. Stags and hens up and down the country are finalising table plans, heading to last minute fittings and patiently counting down to their honeymoons. In the run up to the big day it’s unlikely that considering the need for a will is top of the agenda. However, it is in fact crucially important to consider.

It’s important for the bride and groom to know that not only will their wedding day (hopefully) be the best day of their lives, but it will also be the last day that any pre-existing will is legally valid. This is because under Section 18 of the Wills Act 1837 marriage revokes a will. Similarly, entering into a civil partnership revokes a will under section 18B of the Wills Act 1837. Therefore a person who marries and doesn’t subsequently update their will will be deemed to have died ‘intestate’ (see Lee’s blog on the rules of intestacy).

The only exception to this is where a will contains a ‘contemplation of marriage’ clause. Section 18 of the Wills Act 1837 sets out the relevant rules regarding these:

‘where it appears from a will that at the time it was made the testator was expecting to be married to a particular person and that he intended that the will should not be revoked by the marriage, the will shall not be revoked by his marriage to that person.’

Certain requirements must be met in order for such a clause to be effective:

  1. The person to whom the testator (i.e. the person making the will) intends to marry must be named – in the case of Court v Despallieres [2009] EWHC 3340 (Ch)] it was held that the will had been revoked as the testator had not named the person he was intending to enter into a civil partnership with and for this reason, the civil partnership revoked his will;
  2. The marriage (or civil partnership) must take place within the foreseeable future – in Re Gray’s Estate [1963]) the testator married his wife 25 years after making his will. In this case, it was found that the will was not made in contemplation of marriage because of the length of time that had lapsed; and
  3. There must be an express intention from the testator that the will shall not be revoked by the marriage or civil partnership.

It is therefore important for couples who have either got married without subsequently updating the wills, or who are considering getting married, to review their wills. Our Tax, Trusts and Estates Department can assist with this.

Author bio

Eleanor Evans TEP


Eleanor is Head of the Trusts and Estates Administration Department, a large team dealing with estates and trusts administration on behalf of financial institution and trust corporation clients.  Eleanor is a specialist in wills, probate, tax and trusts, and is a full member of STEP (the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners).  She is also a committee member of the STEP Wales branch.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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