Predatory marriage

predatory marriage

What is predatory marriage? Well, many or our clients include trusts on first death in their Wills. The reasons for this can vary from mitigating care fees to protecting assets for children from a previous marriage. But many of our clients use trusts, particularly for their share of a property, to protect it in case their spouse remarries after their death. Marriage revokes any existing Will, and marriage by its nature can leave assets open to challenge in a future divorce. It’s also possible that the new future spouse might contest any Will which leaves them out. So using Will trusts makes sense.

A phrase that we hear quite often, however, is, “There’s no way I would remarry if I were widowed.” Which all seems perfectly reasonable until we explore the idea of predatory marriage. Think Nigel Havers in one of his more dastardly roles (sorry Nigel, we know you’re a great guy in real life). We know these people live among us but most of us like to think that we wouldn’t fall for it. And we might not, unless of course we had dementia.

You see the problem is, dementia need not be a bar to remarrying. There have been numerous court cases in recent years of people, most often women, getting married second time around despite having had a diagnosis of dementia. The capacity required to get married is pretty low, and the matter has been discussed in Parliament because of the dangers that presents.

But here’s the real issue. A person may have the capacity to get married, and as we know marriage revokes any existing Will. However, it is then very unlikely that that same person will have the required mental capacity to make a new Will. This means that they would die intestate, which from 26th July 2023 would mean that any new spouse would inherit the first £322,000 of the estate plus half the remainder and, perhaps even more upsetting, all of the personal belongings. This is the damage that predatory marriage can cause.

This is exactly what happened to Joan Blass. The story of Joan Blass is a perfect example of what can happen, and has led to the Justice for Joan campaign. It’s not always about the money – predatory marriage can cause untold upset for families. So next time you think that you don’t need to think about trusts because you would never remarry, remember Joan. And Mr Havers…


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