Dodging Sideways Disinheritance

Remarriage is a fact of modern life, especially after the death of a spouse. In 2020, there were almost 70,000 excess deaths as a result of the global pandemic and due to this, life expectancy (using England as the example) was lowered by 1.3 years for males and 0.9 years for females, according to the UK Government, who also states that men have a life expectancy 3.9 years shorter than women’s. The implication here is that realistically speaking, the older you are, the more likely it is that you are going to be in need of a Will but mortality has been exacerbated and made premature, by the force majeure that is the continuing threat of Coronavirus.

To ramp up the (blood) pressure, the Mayo Clinic states that men of 45 or older and women 55 and older are more likely to have a heart attack than their younger counterparts and the British Heart Foundation recommends that all women over the age of 40(!) visit their local GP or nurse for a health check, to assess their cardiovascular risk. Heart disease is the biggest natural cause of death in the UK, followed by cancer and strokes and OK, we can feel your pulse rate quickening so will stop there but can you see where we’re headed with this?

We’re all going to toddle off at some point but it’s important to be realistic about it and to also have our T’s crossed and our I’s dotted. Not only is it important to have your affairs in order but it’s really important that care is taken to ensure that your wishes are documented as appropriately and effectively as possible so as not to alter due to a change in circumstances without you even being aware (whether you’re still alive or not) and especially when it wasn’t your intention. No matter the reason, nobody wants their children affected as a result of a life choice they’re entitled to make as a result of being widowed so not only does everyone need a will at the earliest opportunity but they need one that is going to deliver.

At 60%, men are more likely to re-partner than women (20%) but as we have seen, they are also more likely to be the first to die, leaving a usually much younger subsequent wife. [1] [2]With this in mind, it’s crucial that Estate Planning is up-to-date at the point of remarriage. Why? Read on to find out.

What is Sideways Disinheritance?

In most cases, if you are the first to die, your share of the property is left to your partner. If your partner decides to remarry, it automatically cancels the previous Will which included the children. The Estate then becomes a matrimonial asset in the subsequent marriage under Intestacy Rules, meaning that if your partner then dies before their new partner, the property – your property – could pass to their new spouse, inadvertently disinheriting your children. One of the most high-profile examples of this is of the retail expert, Mary Portas and her brother. Alternatively, your partner could simply change the terms of their own will upon your passing. This is referred to as the Sideways Disinheritance Trap, because the estate moves sideways to the new partner instead of down a generation, like a very high stakes game of Snakes and Ladders; potentially with even more tears and foot-stomping. Most people have probably heard of real-life examples of this which can be extremely distressing, with some people not having the energy or funds to contest, on top of having to deal with the death of a beloved parent.

How Can You Avoid the Trap?

A Protective Property Trust safeguards your share of the property from inadvertently passing to your former spouse’s new partner should they die or any of the other scenarios we have mentioned. It is instead passed to your chosen beneficiaries, most likely your children, in trust, which also protects it against costs like care fees.

It is also advisable to ensure that the basis of your home ownership is, as Tenants in Common, thus preventing an automatic passing of the property to your partner upon your death, as would be the case if you were Joint Tenants. As Tenants in Common, you both own a specified portion of the property (most commonly 50:50 but this can vary).

With these measures in place, you can make certain that your Estate does not pass to anyone other than it was your intention.

Planning Bee’s Paralegals are qualified professionals who have helped thousands of families with their Estate Planning over the years. They have decades of experience in innovative bespoke Estate Planning and lasting Asset Protection advice. Size doesn’t matter at Planning Bee, no matter whether you want to leave your prized thimble collection or your Ferrari 250 GTO and suite of global properties, Planning Bee will tailor an holistic Estate Planning Solution and ensure you don’t pay for something you don’t need. Take advantage of our complimentary initial consultation because reassurance is just a buzz away.

[1] Davidson, Kate. “Gender Differences In New Partnership Choices And Constraints For Older Widows And Widowers”. Ageing International, vol 27, no. 4, 2002, pp. 43-60. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, doi:10.1007/s12126-002-1014-0. Accessed 10 July 2021.

[2] Pollet, Thomas V et al. “The Golden Years: Men From The Forbes 400 Have Much Younger Wives When Remarrying Than The General US Population.”. Letters On Evolutionary Behavioral Science, vol 4, no. 1, 2013, pp. 5-8. Human Behavior And Evolution Society Of Japan, doi:10.5178/lebs.2013.25. Accessed 10 July 2021.

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