When divorcing, there are many issues to consider - from dealing with finances and children, to the separation of assets as big as pensions and as small as the CD collection. It is one of life's most stressful events, and at the time of divorce you may not also want to think about death.
It is crucial, however, to consider what will happen after a divorce in the event of your death, especially if you have children. Many contentious probate cases occur between formerly married couples who have divorced (or not divorced but separated for many years) and who have not considered the implications in the event of death.
If you intend to divorce, make sure that you actually do it or at least change your will so that it reflects your post-separation wishes. Otherwise, you run the risk of either dying intestate (which will mean that a good proportion of your estate automatically passes to your surviving spouse) or with an outdated will.
If you own a house as joint tenants, make sure that you serve a notice of severance of the joint tenancy - otherwise the entire property will pass to your spouse under the rules of survivorship. If you sever the joint tenancy so that the property is held as tenants in common, you will be able to pass your share to whoever you choose.
Consider pension arrangements and any death in service benefits - it is quite common to find that death in service nominations have not been updated and the trustees of such schemes will often want to implement those nominations. Although they have discretion not to, it can be very difficult to persuade them to go against what appear to be your wishes.
Divorce will invalidate any gift to a spouse made in a will, or their appointment as an executor or trustee. This is spelt out on the decree absolute but it is sensible to make a new will post-divorce, particularly because the tax considerations may be relevant where you will not longer be able to pass property onto a spouse free of inheritance tax.
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, a former spouse may bring a claim for reasonable financial provision so long as they have not remarried. It is possible to contract out of this during divorce proceedings.
In relation to children, try to treat them fairly remembering that that may not mean equally. Adult children should require less financial support than those still at school. There are many claims brought under the Inheritance Act 1975 because a parent has left an equal amount to each child without recognising the different financial needs that they have. If you think it would be upsetting to your children to leave different amounts to them, then consider placing money into trust for specific purposes (such as to cover school fees) with the remainder to be divided amongst all of your children once the purpose has been met.
If any of your children has physical or mental health difficulties, then make sure that you also bear that in mind. The most common type of claims from adult children under the Inheritance Act are those from people who are unable to work because of their health.
Sadly, some people use their wills to either reward or punish others, particularly where there has been a divorce. Many cases are fought over perceived unfairness in wills - often a hangover from the way that people feel they were treated by the deceased during their lifetime, and many of those cases with their associated emotional and financial costs, could be avoided.