An estate plan will be automatically impacted by a divorce

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Estate Planning |

In New York, people who have created an estate plan have the right to feel a sense of satisfaction that they have taken steps to shore up their future and are prepared. A well-crafted estate plan can address all issues such as who will receive property, how businesses will be passed along and how various items will be divided.

Often, people leave much of their estate to a spouse. However, after the will or other estate planning document has been written and executed, it is not uncommon for people to experience dramatic life changes. One that frequently comes up is a divorce. It is imperative for the person who wrote the will – the testator – and loved ones who care for them to understand how the will is affected by a divorce and to take the steps necessary to update it.

The divorce will automatically change the will

According to state law, a marriage that ends due to divorce, annulment, is nullified or dissolved will make automatic changes to what the former spouse gets based on the will. If a person had named the spouse at the time to receive a significant portion of their assets and they got divorced, then this is eliminated as a provision in the will.

For example, perhaps the testator had investments in their name and left them to their husband or wife. The divorce will mean the former spouse will not get what they would have had they remained married. In addition, if the former spouse was named as an executor, a fiduciary, an administrator or any type of representative as part of the estate plan, that too will be nullified by the divorce.

Simply because a couple ended their marriage and got divorced does not necessarily mean the testator wants to cut that person out of their will entirely. If it was a long marriage and they chose to get a divorce later in life without rancor, then it is highly possible that they still want to take care of the former spouse. Knowing that the will automatically removes the former spouse can be problematic, so it is essential to be aware of this and to update the will accordingly.

In other instances, the testator wants to remove any areas of confusion in the will and omit the former spouse entirely. In these cases, it is also vital to look at the document and change it. They might want to leave more property to offspring, grandchildren and close associates. A focus on charitable giving could be the objective. The will needs to be changed in these circumstances as well.

Estate plans should be periodically assessed and changed as needed

It is undoubtedly important to have an estate plan, but simply creating one does not end the process. Life changes like a divorce, remarriage, having children or grandchildren or experiencing a windfall can also warrant updating the document. From initially creating the estate plan to understanding when and how it can be changed, it is wise to know the law and be fully prepared for every eventuality.