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What happens to my estate plan if my spouse and I divorce?

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2023 | firm news |

Your spouse may be the first person you think of to name as an heir in your will, and they may be the person you trust most to serve as power of attorney or health care agent.

You might not predict when you write your will that you might divorce, but national statistics suggest that divorce is a possibility.

If you divorce, what happens to the estate plan you created while married?

Will revocation and divorce

A will is partially to completely revoked in Maryland if you get divorced after your will is executed. If you divorce, any provisions in your will that would affect your ex-spouse are revoked. This revocation does not apply until your divorce is finalized.

However, the parts of your will that are not related to your ex-spouse are not revoked.

If your spouse was your only heir in your will, no other heirs or successors were named in your will, and you die without amending your will to include a new heir, the state will decide per intestacy laws who will inherit your probated estate.

What about other parts of your estate plan?

Divorce does not affect other important parts of your estate plan.

First, if you have designated your spouse as beneficiary on your financial accounts or a life insurance policy, these designations might not automatically be deemed invalid just because you divorced. If you do not change these beneficiary designations, your ex-spouse could receive these proceeds upon your death.

Second, you might have separate documents designating your spouse as power of attorney or health care agent. This gives your spouse the right to make medical or financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated and cannot make these choices yourself. Unless you amend these documents, your ex-spouse could remain in these roles.

Third, not all assets are left to your spouse in a will. Many people leave inheritances to loved ones in a revocable trust. Revocable trusts are not subject to probate. Absent language in the trust stating otherwise, revocable trusts are not automatically revoked if you divorce.

Divorce is a trying time, and you likely have a lot of things on your mind. Still, if your marriage ends do not forget to take a second look at your estate plan and amend it accordingly.

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