Did you know that marriage automatically invalidates any Will that you have made unless you have an expectation of marriage clause?
For many this may come as a shock to hear.
Unfortunately, this is what happened to Joan Blass, aged 87, who was befriended by a man, who married her quietly and inherited her estate when she died.
Colman Folan, who was 24 years younger than Joan, targeted her kindness and generosity. Joan’s daughter, Daphne Franks, was wary of Folan. Joan had been diagnosed with vascular dementia and Folan paid Joan a lot of attention.
When Daphne contacted Joan’s GP and social services, they informed her that Joan was clean, well fed and did not seem distressed.
Within a year of knowing Joan, Folan had sold his house and moved in with Joan. Daphne would then have to knock on Joan’s door until Folan let her in. Daphne went to the police after hearing Joan ask Frank, ‘Did I say what you wanted me to say?’ when Daphne was leaving the house one day. However, the police officer told Daphne that ‘People will say you just don’t like him’ and took it no further.
When Joan died in March 2016, aged 91. Folan revealed to the family GP that he and Joan had married the previous year, despite Daphne being Joan’s power of attorney, Joan was able to marry.
As a result of the law in England and Wales, unless a newly married person makes another will, their spouse automatically inherits all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, the first £270,000 of the estate and half of the remaining estate.
The marriage automatically revoked the will Joan had in place and Folan inherited Joan’s entire estate as well as providing him with complete control over Joan’s funeral. He buried Joan in an unmarked grave and remained in Joan’s house.
Under forced marriage legislation, Joan would have lacked the capacity to marriage because of her vascular dementia. However, once someone dies you can only annul a marriage if it was incestuous or bigamous.
The registrars confirmed that although Joan could not remember her age or house number, she was aware that she was getting married. Therefore, the registrar believed that Joan knew what she was doing and entered freely into the wedding.
Campaigning for Change
This heart-breaking story identifies the pitfalls in the law surrounding the capacity to marry, marriage invalidating a Will and predatory marriage. Daphne is now campaigning to stop marriage revoking a will and for robust procedures to be put in place for identifying forced marriage and safeguarding. More information can be found on the family’s website. https://www.predatorymarriage.uk/?page_id=29
If you are married and had a Will in place prior, get in touch to have your Will updated to ensure your wishes remain valid.
Making a Will is an important legal document anyone with assets and / or children needs to obtain legal advice to ensure their loved ones are protected.