If you don’t make formal changes to your estate planning documents after divorce, you may be overlooking many important things. Most estate planning lawyers strongly recommend reviewing your estate planning documents before and after important life changing events, including divorce. In most states, spouses who fail to remove their former spouses as beneficiaries in their Wills may be able to rely on their state’s default probate laws, but in some situations, this may be insufficient. You may unintentionally leave your spouse as your beneficiary, even under your state’s default probate laws.
If you specifically named your spouse in your Will, instead of using some standard terminology such as, “to my surviving spouse” or “to my spouse if he or she survives me,” some courts may consider this an intentional decision to name your spouse as your beneficiary, even after your divorce. Furthermore, using the standard language may be insufficient in some cases to remove your former spouse from your estate plans.
To make sure your ex is no longer a beneficiary, a trustee or other fiduciary of your estate planning instruments, you need to schedule a meeting with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney to discuss the implications of divorce to your estate plans. If you didn’t previously draft a Will or Trust, or make changes to your Will or Trust after your divorce, now may be an important time to do so.