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In recent years, a troubling issue has surfaced, highlighting a gap in legal protections for vulnerable individuals: predatory marriage and revocation of wills. Predatory marriage exploits vulnerable individuals, often the elderly or mentally impaired, for financial gain.

Many people remain unaware that a subsequent marriage automatically revokes a valid will unless specified otherwise.

Understanding Predatory Marriages

A predatory marriage occurs when one party, typically younger and more manipulative, marries an older person primarily for financial gain. This is particularly concerning when the victim has mental incapacity, making it difficult for them to understand the implications of the marriage. Once married, the predator gains significant control over the victim’s estate and financial resources, often to the detriment of the victim’s true wishes and their family.

The Legal Landscape and Its Gaps

One of the main issues in cases of predatory marriage is the automatic revocation of a pre-existing Will upon marriage. Current UK law automatically revokes any previous will when a person marries, unless the will was made in contemplation of that specific marriage. This leaves the new spouse, often the predator, in a position to inherit a significant portion, if not all, of the victim’s estate under intestacy rules, should the victim die without making a new Will. Although the victim has been able to pass the standards required to marry they may not have the higher standard of mental capacity required to make a new Will.

This loophole can have devastating consequences. Families may not realise that the marriage has revoked their loved one’s will, leading to assets being distributed contrary to the victim’s original intentions upon their passing.

Daphne Franks’ Campaign

One prominent campaigner against this practice is Daphne Franks, whose personal experience has driven her to advocate for legal reforms. Daphne Franks’ mother, Joan Blass, was a victim of a predatory marriage. Joan, who suffered from dementia, was married to a much younger man without her family’s knowledge or consent. After Joan’s death, Daphne discovered that her mother’s Will had been revoked by the marriage, and her estate, which she had intended to go to her children, was claimed by her new husband.

Daphne has since been advocating for changing the law to protect vulnerable individuals from such exploitation. Her campaign seeks to introduce new legal safeguards, including:

  • Changing the law so that marriage does not automatically revoke a Will. This is currently under review by the Law Commission.
  • Create an offence of Predatory marriage.
  • Publish the required official notices prior to marriage on the internet, not solely in the local Registry Office.
  • Link Powers of Attorney to the process so that Attorneys are made aware of any intended marriage.
  • Improve training for Registrars to identify mental incapacity and procedures to prevent a marriage if there are doubts


Predatory marriages exploit some of the most vulnerable members of society. The automatic revocation of Wills upon marriage exacerbates the problem, leaving families shocked and powerless. Daphne Franks’ campaign underscores the need for legal review to protect vulnerable individuals from such predatory practices. The Law Commission aim to publish a final Report and a draft Bill concerning Wills in early 2025.

You can find further information on Daphne Franks website

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