If you forget to update your will after a divorce, you risk your assets being distributed to people you do not intend, including potentially your ex-spouse when you pass away.
Investopedia’s recent article “Here’s what you need to remove and add to your will when your marriage is over,” says that many states have laws that, after a divorce, automatically revoke gifts to a former spouse listed in a will. There are states that also revoke gifts to family members of a former spouse. If you’re in a state that has such a law, gifts to former stepchildren would also be revoked after your divorce.
Most married people leave everything in their will to their surviving spouse. If that’s the way that your will currently reads, be certain that you change your ex as a beneficiary and add a new beneficiary. Remember that many types of assets are passed outside of a will, such as life insurance, 401k’s and other investments. Therefore, you must change the beneficiary designation on those documents.
Property Transfers. Update your will for any property gained or lost during the divorce. If you have assets that are specifically identified in your will, be sure to update them for any changes that may have happened because of the divorce. Remember to also update all of your beneficiary designations.
The Executor of your Will. If your ex-spouse is named in your will as your executor, you should change this. State law may automatically assist but confusion can still be created by failing to update.
A Guardian for Minor Children. If you have children with your ex-spouse, you will want to update your will to appoint a guardian, if you and your ex-spouse pass unexpectantly at the same time. If you die, your children will likely be raised by your ex-spouse.
The Best Way to Change Your Will After Divorce. It’s easy: prepare a new one and tear up your old will (literally). Usually starting over is best because you probably left everything or almost everything to your spouse in your original will. Just because you’re legally married until a judge signs a divorce decree, you can still modify your will or estate plan at any time. Ask an estate planning attorney because there some actions you can’t take until the divorce is final.
Can an Ex Challenge Your Will? An ex-spouse or even ex-de facto partner can challenge the will of a former spouse or partner. Whether the challenge will be successful will depend on the court’s interpretation of a number of factors.
Reference: Investopedia (Sep. 14, 2021) “Here’s what you need to remove and add to your will when your marriage is over”