Sound Legal Advice From Our Family To Yours

I’m divorced, is my ex entitled to my estate?

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Divorce can be a complex and emotional process. It often leads to questions about the division of assets and what happens after the court finalizes the divorce.

One common question that arises is whether the court will award a person’s estate to an ex-spouse after they pass away.

Impact of divorce decree

According to U.S. News and World Report, the divorce rate in California is 5.88 per 1,000 couples. When a couple divorces, the court usually divides the assets and properties they acquired during the marriage. This process ensures that both parties receive a fair share. However, the situation can become confusing when one spouse passes away after the divorce.

Importance of updating documents

In most cases, a divorce decree effectively ends any claims an ex-spouse might have to the estate. This means that once the court finalizes the divorce, each person is free to leave their assets to whomever they choose. This freedom includes updating wills and other estate planning documents to reflect their new wishes.

It is important to update these documents after a divorce. Many people forget to change the beneficiaries on their life insurance policies, retirement accounts and other financial instruments. If an ex-spouse remains the named beneficiary, they may still receive those benefits despite the divorce.

Exceptions to the rule

There are some exceptions to these general rules. If a person did not update their will after the divorce, the ex-spouse might still have a claim to the estate, depending on state laws. Some states have laws that automatically revoke the ex-spouse’s rights to inherit if the person made the will before the divorce. Others require specific updates to the will to ensure the ex-spouse receives nothing.

Additionally, if the divorce settlement included an agreement that one party would provide for the other in their will, that agreement could still stand. These agreements are less common but can impact the distribution of the estate.

When going through a divorce, it is important to update your estate plan to reflect your new wishes.