How a Divorce Will Affect Your Last Will and Testament

When you get married, you may get so caught up in your wedding that you forget nothing lasts forever. You and your spouse could fall out of love with each other and separate. After which you realize your ex can still benefit from your last will and testament. A divorce will affect how such a document operates. Even if you think you and your spouse will not end up divorcing, you should take that possibility seriously and plan accordingly.


Separation does not have the same legal effect as a divorce


Even if you and your ex were already leading separate lives before your divorce was finalized, the terms of your last will and testament remain the same. Your ex still has rights to your estate, not until a formal decree dissolving your union terminates those rights. If you can’t wait to legalize your divorce, you can amend your last will and testament instead. The process of doing so is different in every case and jurisdiction.


What will happen to your will after your divorce?


If you made your last will and testament before you got married, your divorce will not affect any of its provisions. But things will get slightly complicated if you drew up a will while you and your former spouse were married. The assets you leave your ex will still belong to them. However, other provisions that will benefit your former spouse as an individual will be voided concerning divorce law. In this case, you need not amend your will.


You may find it tricky if you left everything to your ex in your will. If you identified another beneficiary in your will, like your children, the rights to your property will pass from your ex to your alternate in the event of a divorce.  


Always be sure to name an alternate beneficiary


If you named an alternate beneficiary, no doubt exists about who will inherit your estate in the event of your death. That’s why you shouldn’t forget to name one. Without children, a trustworthy friend or relative will suffice. Some name charitable organizations as alternates. The failure to do so will give the government the power to take over your estate if a dispute exists. Your estate will be subject to probate proceedings. The court will distribute what you left behind to your surviving kin.


Impact of last will on third-party beneficiaries such as your former spouse’s relatives


A divorce will void the provisions in your will from which your ex stands to benefit, except for the assets that you give them as a form of alimony. But if you designated a friend or relative of your ex as an agent, beneficiary, or guardian, those provisions will remain valid. These people are considered third parties not involved in divorce proceedings. So legally, they remain entitled to their share of your estate as long as they remain named in your will. 


You can go over these provisions with a probate attorney so you know which parts of your will need to be amended to reflect your dissociation with your spouse, their friends, and family. You can also choose not to amend these provisions if you think these people deserve a share. It’s up to you to decide what will happen to third-party beneficiaries in your will after your divorce.


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