Creating a will is a vital step in being prepared for the future. This can protect family members, make sure property goes where the person – the testator – wants it to go, prepare to pass along a business and much more. For Massachusetts residents who take the time to make a will that addresses all their goals, it is important to know the consequences of failing to update it as life changes occur.
One situation that generally warrants an update is if the testator gets married after they have executed their will. Those who have not updated their will should understand how the original document will be impacted by a marriage. It does not mean that the spouse is completely omitted because they are not mentioned in the will. It is important to be cognizant of state law for these cases.
What if the marriage took place after the will was executed?
According to the law, the surviving spouse is still entitled to receive a portion of the decedent’s estate even if the will was not updated to reflect the marriage. They will get what they would have gotten if the testator died without a will (intestate) from what is not left to a child born prior to the marriage or a child the spouse had with the decedent. There are exceptions to that rule.
If the will appears as if it was written while the testator was preparing to get married and expressed the desire that it be left as is and effective despite the marriage, then it will remain intact without the spouse getting the equivalent of the intestate share. The testator might provide for the spouse outside the will. The testator must have made statements or reasonable inferences that providing for the surviving spouse outside the will was the intent even as they did not update their will.
When making a will or dealing with disputes, it is essential to have guidance
For people who might have gotten married when they are older or made a will at a young age before they decided whether to marry or not, not adding the new spouse to the will is a common issue that can come up. In fact, it can happen to anyone and cause discord with family members and other heirs after the testator has died. It is imperative to understand the law and the ramifications of getting married and not updating the will. With this and other areas of estate planning, having experienced help to take care of lingering challenges is wise.