Current at 18 July 2023 (originally published 10 June 2020)
It’s a common scenario…
J and S are happily married. They each sign a Will that benefits the other. They also enter into an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) and Enduring Power of Guardianship (EPG) appointing each other to these important positions. All is good on the home front! What could possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, some time later, the relationship sours and J and S separate. There are no children of the relationship and neither wants to spend money on lawyers, especially as there are no significant assets. They decide they can sort things out themselves.
S vows never to marry again so doesn’t worry about a divorce and J still can’t process it all and doesn’t get around to dealing with a lot of things. S subsequently repartners with B. J takes a serious dislike to S’s new partner B. Tragedy strikes when S is in a serious traffic accident just after learning of a big online lotto win. S is hospitalised and placed in a coma. S’s new partner B presumes he will be the ‘decision maker’ in relation to S’s treatment but J holds the EPG and is also empowered to deal with S’s (now substantial) financial affairs under the EPA.
S eventually succumbs to the injuries sustained from the accident. S’s Will, which was signed when S was happily married to J, was never changed or revoked and nominates J as executor and sole beneficiary of a significant estate by virtue of the large lotto win. B is stressed and anxious when B learns that dealings will need to be had with J, lawyers engaged, and the relationship status proved to receive anything from S’s estate. J has the upper hand being the executor and potential sole beneficiary of S’s new wealth and J doesn’t like B. Who could have foreseen any of this?
These issues can easily be avoided. When separating from a spouse/partner it is imperative you consider any documents, such as a Will, that have been signed during the relationship and urgently attend to changes where required. Divorce generally revokes a Will automatically but like many separated parties, J and S never quite got around to getting divorced. A Will benefiting a spouse/partner needs immediate attention on separation and the same considerations apply to any EPG or EPA. We know the breakdown of a relationship is a stressful time but many matters need prompt attention by legal professionals.
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Family law matters can be difficult and complex. If you require any assistance with a family law dispute, always contact a legal practitioner who will be able to help.
O’Sullivan Davies has practitioners experienced in assisting with estate and forward planning. More information about our services can be found at our About Us page here.
This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.
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