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Understanding how divorce impacts one’s estate plans

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2021 | Estate Planning

It goes without saying that one’s divorce brings about several changes in their life in California. Several aspects of their future require re-examination (including their estate plans). Given that (according to information shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) the national divorce rate is 2.7 per 1,000 population, the potential for divorce should prompt one to consider its long-term implications.

Many worry that if one fails to update their will following their divorce, their ex-spouse still stands to benefit from their estate when they die. The assumption is that such an occurrence runs contrary to a decedent’s wishes (given the end of their marriage). State law, however, accounts for the potential of one overlooking updating their estate immediately following their divorce.

The effect of divorce on estate plans

Indeed, according to Section 6122 of the California Probate Code, one’s divorce automatically nullifies any of the following:

  • All dispositions of property made to their ex-spouse in their will
  • All fiduciary powers delegated to their ex-spouse in their estate plans
  • All nominations for their ex-spouse to positions of oversight in the administration of their estate

Essentially (at least in the eyes of the law) it would be as though one’s ex-spouse preceded them in death. Thus, one need not worry about their ex-spouse inadvertently benefitting from their estate.

Special considerations following their divorce

Yet just as knowing one’s ex-spouse no longer figures in their estate plans should not deter one from updated their will (especially if and when they remarry), one might also want to consider whether completely removing their ex-spouse from them is truly in their best interest. It may make sense to leave their ex-spouse in some fiduciary capacity (particularly if they have young children that may receive estate assets through a trust).