What Happens to Your Will in a Divorce

This is part two of a two-part series on your will and divorce. Part one covered the importance of having a will and part two discusses what happens to your will when you divorce.

If you have prepared a will you are to be commended. Every adult should have a properly drafted and executed will and only about half of all Americans have taken the time to prepare one of the most critical documents in your life. But did you know that major life events could revoke that will, or seriously impact it to the point that your wishes may no longer be carried out?

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For example, when you get married, your will is automatically revoked. If you have a child, that child is not automatically added as a beneficiary. These and other major life events may have consequences of which you are not aware of.

Divorce is another major life event that can affect the terms of your will. Divorce can be an extremely complicated process and the last thing you may want to tackle is more decisions and more paperwork, but updating your will as you consider ending your marriage is critical.

Perhaps you will currently state that your spouse will inherit everything. Let’s say you die before your divorce is final. Guess who gets it all? Your spouse would still be the beneficiary of everything in your estate. And even if after the divorce is finalized, your spouse could still inherit everything unless you have updated your will.

Laws vary by state. In some states, gifts made to a spouse are automatically revoked upon divorce. In others, divorce has no effect. And in some states, any gifts made to anyone related to your former spouse are revoked. Let’s say you wanted to leave some of your estates to your stepchild by that spouse. That gift would be revoked under those states’ laws.

If you have children, there is also the issue of guardianship should you die. Generally, the children would go to the surviving spouse. But maybe you have questions about the suitability of your spouse to parent your children adequately. You may want to think about selecting a guardian you trust.

You will also want to review your powers of attorney both for healthcare and for financial matters. If your spouse is listed now, you most likely want to change that and leave those decisions to someone else.

With any major life event, you should review your will. When you divorce, make sure you discuss what needs to be done with your will to make sure your desires for your assets will be carried out upon your death.