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Marriage laws need strengthening as tale of dementia patient demonstrates

It may surprise you that in this day and age someone with advanced dementia can remarry so that their new spouse inherits their fortune.

As much as the law tries to move with the times, there continue to be those shake of the head stories, scarcely believable that they can happen, but the story of Joan Blass is certainly one to sit up and take notice of.

Whilst the story received some publicity, it has escaped the gaze of many and it is worth highlighting because we’re pretty sure it could have ramifications for many here in Staines and the surrounding areas.

Joan Blass was 91, when she died of cancer in 2016, but it was only following her death that her family realised she had remarried.

She had been diagnosed with dementia in 2011, but that year a man who was 24 years her junior began to seemingly strike up a friendship with her.

He soon moved into her Leeds home, but only following Mrs Blass’s death did it become apparent to her daughter Daphne Franks that she had remarried.

A longstanding law means a will is automatically revoked upon marriage, so what seemed to be her up to date will, when she still had full use of her mental faculties became null and void.

The legal rule has caused devastation for the family, with the new husband inheriting her estate.

The matter has been brought up by Daphne Franks MP, but sadly this case of what is known as ‘predatory marriage’ is not an isolated one.

There are more and more voices being raised to stop such marriages occurring.

However, this is of no consolation to those whose loved ones are targeted by people seeing a way to inherit fortunes.

It is vital to ensure that a Lasting Power of Attorney, a document where loved ones can take responsibility for all financial matters if and when their parent/spouse loses mental capacity, is put in place while they remain well.

Sadly, in Mrs Blass’s case the registrar did not realise she had dementia when she was secretly married. It means families must be vigilant.

The current legal rules concerning the revocation of wills by marriage dates back many years and it appears it does need some updating.

As it stands, there is no recourse for the loved ones of Mrs Blass and this man, her husband, who was so much younger can now live out the rest of his life seemingly without the threat of the law questioning his motives.

This story is certainly food for thought for many.

If you need advice on Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney or other Lifetime and Tax Planning Matters, get in touch with our team in Staines who will be happy to help.