Although never planned, divorce is one of the complications of life with which many must deal. So what happens if your will leaves everything to your spouse, but you never change the will after a divorce? When you pass away, will your ex-spouse still get your assets?
Maintaining control of your estate includes making sure your assets go, at the time of your death, where you want them to go. This should be done with a written estate plan, including a will.
However, circumstances almost always change between the time you create a will and the time of your passing. When those changes alter who you want to receive your assets, it is critical that you amend your will. If you create a will but do not periodically review it, you may have an estate document, but you do not have an estate plan. And an out of date estate document may actually undermine your estate plan.
As it relates to divorce, the State of Idaho has attempted to minimize the harm if there has been a divorce but no change to the prior will. Idaho law prohibits a person from receiving the assets of an ex-spouse just because he or she was named in a will created prior to the divorce.
However, divorce is just one of many complications affecting people’s lives. There are many other situations which may arise, and no law to protect your assets if you failed to adjust your estate documents. You should certainly review your estate plan if/ when any significant change in circumstances (i.e. divorce, bankruptcy, disability) occurs for you or your intended beneficiaries.
It is always best to have a will, adjusted as needed to protect your estate. Even this law, addressing divorces occurring after creation of a will, may not be as effective as you might think. Next column I will give an example.
© 2016 Steven J Wright