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The Similarities Of Brexit & Separation

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It appears that there are quite a few similarities between Brexit and married couples or civil partners separating.

It can be a long and uncertain process, with unexpected consequences, the cause of high emotion, with one party seeking to invoke Article 50 as soon as possible whilst the other party isn’t in quite so much of a hurry to do so.

If a married couple or civil partners separate, at some point they will probably seek advice about dealing with assets, contact with and providing for the children and the like.  They most likely will not consider what will happen if one spouse or civil partner dies whilst divorce or dissolution proceedings are ongoing.

Many assume that, if a couple have separated, then the surviving spouse or civil partner will not get anything.  However, this is not the case.  Up until the point that the Decree Absolute or Dissolution is issued, the surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit under the Intestacy Rules if no Will has been made, or under the terms of the deceased spouse or civil partner’s Will if one has.

Therefore, if you are separating, it is important to make sure that you have a Will in place to make sure that your assets pass to whom you wish them to. 

In respect of joint assets, these will usually pass automatically to the other joint owner(s).  However, in respect of jointly owned properties, it is possible to leave your share to someone other than your joint owner.

There are two methods to own property jointly.  The first and probably most common method is to hold property as joint tenants.  This means that, when one owner dies, the property passes automatically by survivorship to the other joint owners.  The second method is to hold the property as tenants in common in equal or unequal shares.  If a property is held as tenants in common, then you can leave your share to someone other than your co-owners under the terms of your Will.

If you are separating and are making or amending your Will, then it is advisable to consider whether you wish to sever the joint tenancy.  Severing the joint tenancy is a straightforward process, involving serving notice of intending to sever the joint tenancy on your co-owner(s) and registering the severance with the Land Registry.

It is also important to consider minor children and what would happen to them if you are not here.  This would include appointing guardians to look after them if you and your soon to be former spouse or civil partner dies whilst the children are minors.

If you don’t get around to amending an existing Will during divorce or dissolution proceedings, then you will most certainly need to amend it once the divorce process is complete to make sure that the Will is up to date, especially if you have a new partner and/or children.