Kerry and Ashley entered into a civil union and made new Wills at that time.  A few years later they decided to marry.  As they were not thinking about getting married when they signed their Wills, their Wills did not provide that they would remain in place if they did ever marry.  The result of this is that their marriage automatically (and unintentionally) cancelled their existing Wills, with unintended consequences for them. 

Sadly, Kerry passed away a couple of years after their marriage thinking that there was a valid Will in place.  Unfortunately this was not the case.  As Kerry died without a valid Will the estate was distributed in accordance with the Administration Act, rather than what was recorded in the Will (that was signed prior to marriage).  Kerry’s wishes were not carried out and Ashley did not receive the inheritance Kerry had intended. 

If a civil union couple decides to get married, will this impact on the couple’s existing Wills? What about if you are in a de facto relationship and are contemplating a civil union or marriage?  Will this affect your existing Wills?   In most cases, yes, it will.


The current law provides for a number of ways to cancel a Will.  One of these is that if you get married or enter into a civil union, this will automatically cancel any Will that you have made.  This would still apply if you have previously entered into a civil union and at a later stage, you decide to get married.

There are a few exceptions to this, the most common is if your Will is made “in contemplation” of that particular marriage or civil union.  The best way to stop your Will from being automatically cancelled if you were to marry or enter into a civil union is to include specific wording in your Will stating this intention.  This is commonly known as “contemplating marriage”.

The message for all couples that have recently entered into a civil union or marriage

  • If you have recently married or entered into a civil union you should check that your Will has not been revoked by your marriage.
  • If you are planning to get married or to enter into a civil union you should ensure your Will clearly states that it is made “in contemplation” of that marriage or civil union so that your Will does not get unintentionally cancelled.

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Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.