A recent case in Australia has highlighted the importance of updating your Will after a separation.

A young couple ended their marriage after three years together, and had begun living separate lives when the young man suffered an untimely death. Because he had not updated his Will, and the divorce was not completed by the parties, the entirety of the man’s estate is legally passed on to his estranged wife.

During the separation, a property relationship settlement had been made between the former couple under which the man was able to keep the marital home after paying $35,000 to his estranged wife.

The young man had commenced a new relationship with a woman he had said was, “The one” and the couple had made plans to start a family. Without an updated Will the estranged wife will now receive not only what was agreed on during the separation but his entire estate.

The law in New Zealand is very similar. There is legislation that revokes any previous Wills when you get married, as well as voiding any parts of your Will relating to your ex-spouse if your marriage ends in divorce. However legislation does not protect an out of date Will during a separation while a divorce is pending. 

If you are separating from your partner, or have separated, and have not updated your Will, see your legal advisor or lawyer to make a new Will as soon as possible. 

Louisa Gommans
Senior Solicitor
Wellington