Marriage is supposed to be meaningful, mutual and certainly not fraudulent… Unfortunately, inheritance hunters are targeting vulnerable people for nasty purposes. Marriage fraud needs stopping once and for all!
Their intention is to form a bond with the person, who is usually wealthy and elderly (and sometimes mentally ill), and end up marrying them. They often slither their way into being a carer or close acquaintance of the person. Next, they’ll convince them to take their hand in marriage. But not for romantic reasons…
These tricksters work in sneaky ways; they try to induce the elderly victim into a marriage without the person’s family knowing.
The law on revoking Wills upon marriage
Marriage or civil partnership revokes any previous Will, unless written with future marriages in mind.
So if you don’t write a new Will after the wedding (to include family), all or most of your estate will pass to your new (fraudulent) spouse under Intestacy rules.
I’m sure you can imagine the unpleasant surprise you’d get when finding out you’re not due any inheritance from your grandparent’s Will. Not to mention the horrible shock of realising your grandparent’s new spouse was a marriage fraud artist!
Jessica Bullock, Legal Assistant in Family Law at our very own Barnsley branch, said: “When we first see clients that are going through divorce/marriage difficulties we always advise them to make a Will so that their spouse doesn’t inherit everything. Once we receive Decree Absolute we also advise them to make a further Will as the divorce would affect the terms of their Will”.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill
A Bill has been proposed to Parliament, called ‘The Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill’.
If passed, families will be able to contest these kinds of predatory marriages.
It was due for debate on 22nd March but Brexit-related discussions took priority.
The Bill is awaiting its second hearing in Parliament. It aims to:
- Repeal legislation revoking Wills upon marriage or civil partnership.
- Require couples to complete questionnaires prior to a ceremony to establish whether a medical opinion is necessary.
- Require online publication of a notice of intention of a marriage. The purpose of this is to inform families of any upcoming weddings, just in case they’re unaware.
- Provide better training to registrars so that they can ensure both parties have capacity to enter a marriage or civil partnership.
Mental capacity for marriage
The current level at which mental capacity is considered sufficient enough for marriage is particularly low. The law only requires a person to understand the nature of a marriage contract and the responsibilities it comes with.
Registrars don’t even have to seek medical opinion on mental capacity.
Furthermore, without the sufficient mental capacity, a person isn’t able to make a valid Will. This means that some individuals may meet the low requirements to get married, but could still have insufficient mental capacity for Will-writing.
Speaking of the proposed Bill, Jess added: “I think it will be very useful for vulnerable people that are in danger of being victims of fraudulent marriages.”
Before this Bill officially becomes law, we advise you to check your Will and ensure that it accurately reflects your genuine personal desires. If you’re yet to write your first Will, give us a call and we can help you with it!