Divorce and Your Will

Divorce and Your Will

In some states, getting divorced automatically deletes your former spouse's share from your will. You should not rely on this and should make a new will. If your spouse tries to get a share of the estate because he or she is mentioned, it may cost your estate considerable legal fees to defeat the claim.

Example: George and Eunice made their wills leaving half their property to each other and half to their children from their previous marriages. After their divorce, George forgot to make a new will. When George died, Eunice hired a lawyer to file papers claiming half the estate. His children's lawyer pointed out that her share was void because of the divorce, but the other lawyer demanded a trial, hoping the children would settle the case by giving his client a few thousand dollars. They refused to settle and their attorney charged $5,000 for the trial.

In some states, divorce does not revoke your will. If you do not have time to make a new will after your divorce, you may want to revoke your will. By revoking your will, you are choosing to use your state's distribution system of deciding your heirs, which, in all cases, would not include your ex-spouse.

  • What is a Will?
    A last will is a document that you create to direct the management and distribution of your property and provide for the care of your minor children after your death. The importance of a last will cannot be overstated. A last will is arguably the most important legal document that the average...
    read more
  • Leaving Property to Heirs in a Will
    A typical last will contains two types of gifts: specific and general. Specific gifts, which leave a particular object or dollar amount to a particular person, are optional, but are generally the first items of property that are distributed from a last will. A specific gift might read: "I leave to...
    read more
  • Last Wills and Probate Court
    Probate is the legal process through which the court decides how your property will be divided. If you have a last will, the court will review that document to determine your wishes and will follow those wishes unless the last will is successfully contested by your heirs. If you do not have a last...
    read more
  • Joint Tenancy
    Property that is owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship does not pass under a will. If a will gives property to one person but it is already in a joint account with another person, the will is usually ignored and the joint owner of the account gets the property. The property in the...
    read more
  • Overruling Your Will
    If all property is in joint ownership or if all property is distributed through a will, things are simple. But when some property passes by each method, a person's plans may not be fulfilled. Example 1: Bill's will leaves all his property to his sister, Mary. Bill dies owning a house jointly with...
    read more
  • Tenancy in Common
    Property that is owned by more than one person but not owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship or in tenancy by the entireties is often owned in a tenancy in common. This means that each person owns part of the property (such as one half or one third), and upon each person's death, the...
    read more