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Is my spouse entitled to my estate after we divorce?

As you go through divorce proceedings, you may think that you have accounted for every detail of your split. Yet, people often overlook their estate plans during this time. Yours may have your spouse inheriting a significant portion of your assets. Or, they may be the beneficiary of retirement accounts or insurance policies you own. If you do not want these assets passing to your spouse, it’s crucial that you make changes to your estate.

What your spouse cannot receive

You may have named your spouse as your estate’s executor or as the beneficiary to any separate property you own. Yet, upon your divorce, California’s laws will remove them from this role and disinherit them from any assets they may receive. To avoid chance of risk, though, you might want to draft a new estate plan that names a different executor and different beneficiaries in place of your spouse. Doing so can prevent them from staking a claim on your property if you predecease them without updating your plan.

If your estate contains a revocable trust, you will need to modify or revoke it once your divorce finalizes. Your spouse will receive their half of any marital property the trust contains. But once you make changes to the trust, you can protect any separate property held within it.

What your spouse can receive

Because California is a community property state, your spouse will likely receive part of your retirement accounts during your divorce. This amount is usually half of any value added during your marriage. Unlike your estate, they will receive the accounts’ remaining contents if they remain their beneficiary once you pass. And if you hold a life insurance policy, your spouse will receive it, too, if they remain its beneficiary. To keep them from receiving these assets, you must change their beneficiary designations once your divorce finalizes. You will need your spouse’s consent to do so, though, with your retirement accounts.

Protecting your assets is crucial during your divorce. Ensuring your estate plan reflects your current circumstances can keep your property from passing to your spouse. And making any necessary updates allows you to preserve your legacy in the long run.