Campaigners have introduced a bill in parliament to prevent gold-diggers exploiting the elderly and the vulnerable by marrying them for the sole purpose of inheriting their estates.
Under the law as it stands, a person’s will is automatically invalidated when they marry.
This means that unless they make another will, when they die they are treated as having no will at all and their estate is divided in a way laid down by law.
This means their spouse will automatically inherit most if not all their estate. The deceased person’s children may end up with nothing.
The campaigners for change say that this provision in the law has been used by some unscrupulous suitors to marry vulnerable people, knowing that they lack the mental capacity needed to create a new will.
Fabian Hamilton, the Labour MP for Leeds North East, has introduced a 10-minute rule bill into parliament seeking to change the law so that marriage doesn’t automatically invalidate a person’s will.
Mr Hamilton said he had been motivated to introduce his bill by a case involving a constituent. “All the signs were that [the constituent] who was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2011, was being exploited by the man who eventually became her husband in a secret marriage ceremony in 2015.”
The bill has little chance of getting through parliament unless it is supported by the government, but it has still served a useful purpose in highlighting what seems to be a growing problem.
Children and other beneficiaries of a will invalidated by suspicious marriage should seek advice from a solicitor because it is possible to mount a legal challenge in some circumstances.
Please contact us if you would like advice about wills and probate.