What happens if my partner remarries after I die?
The issue with basic Mirror Wills is that they are so simple. In one way the simplicity is great, everyone loves something that is simple and easy to understand but often simple things bring limitations with them and this is a classic example.
Imagine you have passed away, would it really be unreasonable that in 5, 10, 20 years time your partner met someone new and enjoyed the rest of their life with them? If you ask my wife, she'll say I should live alone forever after! However in the main I think it would be seen as reasonable and indeed happens, a lot.
From an Estate Planning point of view our biggest concern is if a Mirror Will had been used because the survivor would now own everything. Whilst on the face of it everything sounds fine and normal, the children have absolutely no protection. So in this example if I pass away, my wife would now own everything and if she did meet someone else, what happens to our children and their inheritance? What are the ways in which they might miss out?
If my Wife got remarried, her Will is revoked (side point - remember to make a new will or have it reviewed if you get married/remarried) and if she does not remember to make a new will, her estate would then go according to the rules of intestacy. These rules are old fashioned and assumes you would want everything to go to the person you are marrying. Intestacy has not been brought into the 21st century where second marriages are common place and not every second marriage involve the survivor inheriting everything. If my wife passes away before her new partner, he will end up the sole heir of what was our joint estate.
When we are discussing such a situation, clients inevitably invest a huge amount of faith in each other that they will remember to get new wills done at the time. The truth is whilst some will indeed remember and take steps, we wouldn't hear about so many disasters happening within families is everyone remembers to do the "right" thing. Lets just assume the survivor does remember and they write a new will saying everything they own will go to their children, what will happen to assets owned jointly with the new partner? The usual rule of thumb is that joint assets go to the survivor and so it doesn't matter what the will states.
The reality is if this area concerns you, a simple Mirror Will is simply not up to the job.
Right now we can't see into the future and know how things will turn out. The reality is unfortunately the children and parents regularly fall out, sometimes in ways that can't be fixed. Sadly I've done many Wills where one or more of the children have been written out of the will for many different reasons. What if the surviving partner fell out with the kids and decided to disinherit them? Sure it sounds unlikely now but what about all the people I've done such wills for, do you think they thought it would come to that 20/30 years ago when they were a younger family? In these cases if that is what the survivor wants to do, then fair enough, it is their choice. What about the first parent who passed away? They didn't fall out with the children, they would very likely still want their share to go to the kids.
It really is important to consider the different options to protect our assets so that if any of these scenarios play out down the line, we've got a plan in place. To learn about one of the common see this video.