Going through a divorce is often a stressful and overwhelming experience for many people. It’s not uncommon for people in this situation to make mistakes. One mistake you might make is assuming that getting divorced simply cancels out any will you made in the past.
In reality, as any experienced probate attorney will tell you, getting divorced doesn’t automatically cancel or invalidate a will. This is why it’s so important to get the information and assistance you need when going through a divorce. Otherwise, you could find that your estate plan isn’t exactly what you hoped it would be. This guide will answer a range of common questions on the matter.
Does Divorce Invalidate a Will?
Not at all. Divorce, on its own, does not revoke or invalidate a will in any way. Some people make the mistake of assuming that any will they made during the marriage becomes null and void after divorce, and others assume that the will they had before getting married will come back into effect when they’re divorced and single again.
However, in reality, neither of these scenarios is accurate. The specifics can vary from state to state, but in general, when you get divorced, your will remains active but is essentially ‘updated’ to revoke any gifts you might have made to your former spouse. So if you had put your former spouse as a primary beneficiary on your will during the marriage, the divorce would cancel out any inheritance they might have received.
It essentially works as though the former spouse had died. The inheritance instead passes to an alternate or contingency beneficiary, as long as one has been named. If one hasn’t been named, the inheritance may go to a residuary beneficiary. If no residuary beneficiary has been named, the inheritance will be allocated via state law to the nearest living relatives.
What Happens to My Will if I Get Married Again?
The specifics of this can vary from case to case and location to location, but in general, when you remarry, it’s highly recommended to get your will updated to include provisions for your new family and beneficiaries, like your new spouse and any step-children you may have. Without making the proper changes, your estate may not be divided the way you hoped.
Why Should I Make a New Will?
In general, legal experts often recommend making a new will when major life circumstances change, like after a divorce. There are many reasons for this, beginning with the fact that updating your will allows you to have total control of how your estate is distributed in the event of your death. If you don’t update it, your estate could be distributed in ways that don’t honor your wishes or intentions.
It’s also recommended to make a new will to ensure that your children and other dependents or loved ones are provided for. This is particularly important if you enter into a new relationship and want to make sure that your new partner and family will be entitled to a share of your estate. Former spouses can make claims on property and assets on wills that haven’t been sufficiently updated and adjusted.
What Will Happen if I Don’t Make a New Will?
Remember: divorce does not invalidate a will. If you choose not to make a new will, you could be putting your estate in jeopardy and potentially creating a situation in which your loved ones and dependents don’t receive the inheritance and provisions they need, and this is true even in cases of an amicable separation. You have to update the will to make everything official, otherwise, all kinds of consequences may arise.
These are just some of the reasons why it’s essential to get your will updated or to create an entirely new one after divorce and before remarriage. Contacting an experienced attorney will help you get your estate plan entirely under control.
Mike Johnson is a freelance writer and a human rights activist. Through his extensive research and commitment to the field of law, Mike has established himself as a well-decorated writer. Mike currently lives in Las Vegas. He loves starting his day with a shot of espresso and cycling through his neighborhood.