Are deathbed marriages a good idea?

Nicholas Fairbank

Nicholas Fairbank

Another issue to consider is if there could be any familial disputes related to a deathbed marriage – sometimes these couples have children from previous relationships and it is not unusual to see families fall out over inheritance and question the validity of a last-minute wedding.

The case of Wharton v Bancroft and Others [2011] EWHC 3250, for instance, saw Mr Wharton marry his partner of 32 years after being told he did not have long to live.

His daughters challenged the will, which left everything to his new wife. In this case it was found that Mr Wharton was not coerced into changing his will and he was a capable testator.

Modern families are complicated and sometimes messy – while a deathbed marriage certainly can help to protect the couple when one of them passes away, there might still be arguments with the wider family about the will and inheritance.

It is undoubtedly solid advice for everyone, married or not, to ensure their will is up-to-date.

Until the law changes and cohabiting couples are given more protection, this advice applies even more so to those in long-term relationships if they want to ensure their partner is sufficiently provided for, whether or not marriage is on the cards.

Nicholas Fairbank is a barrister at 4PB