If you have a Will, getting married automatically revokes your Will, unless the Will contains a declaration that it is made in contemplation of the marriage . Without a new Will, your estate would pass on an intestacy, undoing  all the organization you did to get your previous estate planning in place.

 

Moving in with your partner does not have this technical effect, but is also a good time to review your estate plan.  For one thing, once you have lived and cohabited together for a period of at least 2 years you will have an obligation to each other as spouses under BC’s Wills Variation Act (see more below).

 

Depending on your situation and the intentions of yourself and your fiancé, your new Will and estate plan may be very similar or quite different to your existing one.

 

Some of the basic things to discuss:

  • Who you want as executors? (each other perhaps, with other backups)
  • If you have minor children together, who will be the guardian if something happens to both of you?
  • How do you plan to provide for each other in your Wills? Who else do you have obligations to (ie, children) or want to consider in your plan?
  • If you are alive but not capable of managing your finances or health care decisions, who do you want to take care of things?

 

For couples without children, a common plan is to leave everything to each other but to provide for other family members, friends or charity if the partner predeceases. For couples who have children together (or plan to soon), a common plan is to leave everything to each other and then to the children if something happens to both of them. That said, there is no cookie cutter solution, and it depends on your whole situation.

 

If you or you fiancé has children from a previous marriage, you need a little more discussion and advice to come up with the right plan.  If the children are minors, most people have joint guardianship with their ex and the child’s other surviving parent would be the guardian.  In terms of property, under BC’s Wills Variation Act, a person has responsibility both to their spouse and to their children (which means biological or legally adopted children).  If the couple is retired, each have plenty of resources, and plan to keep their estates separate for the children from previous relationships, they may do Wills leaving their estates to their children and a marriage agreement to confirm the agreement not to leave anything to each other.

 

On the other hand, the “all to each other, then to the children” simple Will plan does not work for a blended family. It does not adequately protect the children because the surviving spouse can remarry or change their Will after the death of the first spouse. Some solutions are to leave portions of the estate to each of spouse and children, spousal trusts in the Will (so the survivor can have the benefit of the estate during their life), joint spousal trusts if the spouses are over 65 years old, or using life insurance to create a direct separate inheritance for the children. For more on spousal trusts, see http://www.bcheritagelaw.com/blog/estate-planning/estate-planning-for-blended-families-carefully-balancing-interests/.