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How does a divorce affect a will?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Estate Planning

Most Kentucky residents who craft a will do so to ensure their property goes where they want it to go after they are gone. This individual, known as the testator, needs to understand how the law works with a will’s validity in every circumstance.

One issue that people need to be aware of is if they get divorced after they have written and executed their will. For these and other issues, it is important to be fully prepared and know what happens with every eventuality.

A divorce or annulment will automatically alter a will

When a person writes a will and they are married at the time, they are likely to leave a certain amount of property – if not all of it – to their spouse. Under state law, once a will is executed and the testator gets a divorce or an annulment, any property that was left to the now-former spouse will be revoked. This is true even if the testator still wanted to leave the will as is.

It will also remove provisions granting the former spouse a general or special power of appointment. They will be removed as the executor, guardian, trustee or conservator and it will prevent them from performing the requisite duties. Any property that would have gone to the former spouse will be treated as if the former spouse died before the testator and the property will be disposed of accordingly, going to other living family members.

For those who want the former spouse to still receive the property as they would have had the couple remained married, it is vital to express that in the will. Perhaps a new will needs to be written or a codicil added to ensure the property is disposed of in the same way it would have without the divorce. In some cases, the testator remarries the former spouse. That would revive the will as it was.

Estate planning has nuance that people should understand

It is wise to have an estate plan, but that does not mean having one will solve all potential issues. Many people are completely unaware of what will happen if they have a will in which their spouse is named and they get divorced. This makes it important to know all the details of estate planning and to be ready to make changes as needed.