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Insights // 26 November 2021

Predatory Marriages – a Growing Issue

Partner Jonathan Gater, in our leading Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts team, looks at the problem of predatory marriages.

Family members of those taken advantage of by predatory marriages are calling for law reform and better safeguarding measures for vulnerable individuals. Presently, Wills are automatically revoked upon marriage. Should a person pass away without a Will then their estate will pass in accordance with the rules of intestacy, meaning that their new spouse stands to inherit instead.

What is a predatory marriage?

A predatory marriage is when a vulnerable individual is married (often in secret) to someone who is seeking to take advantage of these rules, with the intent to revoke their Will and establish themselves as due to inherit from their estate when they die. Often, the vulnerable individual is isolated from their existing support network and married in secret, which poses numerous risks to the vulnerable individual beyond just the predatory marriage.

What reforms are being proposed?

The current reforms are calling for Wills to no longer be revoked upon marriage, as well as additional training for registrars to assist in identifying potential predators who are taking advantage of someone. This is especially pertinent in cases where the vulnerable individual doesn’t have the mental capacity to make a new Will. If they were to get married and their old Will were to be revoked, there would be no way of safeguarding their estate as a new Will cannot be created.

Often in cases where one party to a marriage is perhaps more financially stable, a nuptial agreement may be considered as a way of protecting assets on separation or divorce. At the same time, it would be standard practice to look at obtaining a new Will in contemplation of the future wedding to protect against this sort of situation and ensure that testamentary wishes are accurately reflected. However, in a predatory relationship, it may be difficult for the vulnerable party to raise these issues or take proper advice.

When managing and safeguarding the affairs of a vulnerable individual, you should always speak to a specialist solicitor who has experience putting the right safeguarding measures in place.

Our specialist Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts and Family Law teams can advise on matters relating to difficult family situations, including those involving vulnerable individuals or individuals without capacity.

For further information or legal advice, please contact law@blandy.co.uk or call 0118 951 6800. 

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Jonathan Gater

Jonathan Gater

Joint Managing Partner, Wills, Probate Tax & Trusts & Court of Protection

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