Review insurance for dependants and your will during divorce or dissolution

When you’ve separated from your husband, wife or civil partner, you may have to take out extra life insurance or change your will or get a new one. Find out the steps you can take to make sure your family is protected.

Sorting out life insurance

Work out whether you need or have enough life insurance. If you and your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) had a mortgage together, you may also have had a joint life insurance policy to go with it.

When you separate, you can’t divide a life insurance policy – one of you has to take it over or you must cancel it entirely. That means the other partner could be without life insurance.

If, after you separate, you have children or anyone else who depends on you financially or you have a joint mortgage with a new partner, you should consider taking out life insurance.

Protecting child maintenance and spousal maintenance/periodical allowance payments

Consider taking out life insurance to cover your ex-partner’s life if you receive spousal maintenance (periodical allowance in Scotland) and/or child maintenance payments from them. You or your ex-partner could take out a policy that pays a lump sum, or one that pays you an income for a specific length of time (perhaps until the payments were due to end).

Life insurance that pays an income rather than a lump sum is called ‘family income benefit’ insurance.

Reviewing death-in-service benefits

Your workplace may pay out a lump sum if you were to die while you’re employed. You normally have to say who you’d like to receive this lump sum. This is often your husband, wife or civil partner. Check whether you want to change that after you’ve separated.

Why review your existing will?

In England, Wales or Northern Ireland: once you are divorced or your civil partnership has been dissolved, any money or property you’ve left to your ex-husband, wife or civil partner won’t go to them. But the rest of your will is still valid. So if, for example, you’ve left money to your ex-partner’s family, they would still receive that inheritance if you died without having a new will.

Be warned! Until your divorce or dissolution is finalised, your existing will is still valid. This is important to know if your wife, husband or civil partner is named as an executor and/or a main beneficiary. Consider making an interim will whilst your divorce or dissolution is ongoing.

If you marry again or form a civil partnership, any will you have would normally be automatically cancelled. If you die without making a new will, your money and possessions will pass in accordance with intestacy rules. This may not reflect your wishes.

In Scotland: getting divorced or dissolve your civil partnership doesn’t affect your will. If you left money to your ex-partner in your will, he or she will still receive it after your divorce or dissolution has been finalised.

If you didn’t leave anything to your ex-partner or his/her family, you don’t need to have a new will, but you might want to review it to make sure it reflects your current wishes.

Changing your will

You don’t have to have a new will if you are only going to make very minor changes. Instead you can add what’s called a ‘codicil’.

Read more in our guide Changing your will.

If you want to make major changes to your will – such as leaving money or possessions to someone else – you’re probably better off drawing up a new one. Make sure that you say that this new will revokes any earlier wills.

Find out how to draw up a will in Writing a will – your options.

Why you need a will

If you don’t have a will at all, think about getting one drawn up. If you don’t have a will when you die, your money and possessions will be passed on according to the law. This can result in some complicated arrangements, for example between first and second families. And that may not be what you want.

  • Your children could inherit everything if you don’t marry or enter a civil partnership.
  • If you do remarry or enter a new civil partnership, your new husband, wife or civil partner could receive some or all of your money and property.
  • If you live with a new partner without marrying or entering a civil partnership they would not have an automatic right to inherit, if you don’t have a will.