Outdated estate plans can cost a family thousands of dollars and hours of unnecessary headaches to correct mistakes or inaccuracies when a loved one dies. Many of these inaccuracies occur because of a divorce or legal separation before the person can update their will.

Worse, some people take the time to prepare an online form to create a will but fail to have them notarized or witnessed properly. These forms could counter exisiting documents and cause unnecessary confusion with beneficiaries or ex-spouses.

Does a divorce automatically disinherit your ex-spouse?

Divorces and separations can be as unique as the people filing them. You may be separating on friendly terms, or you may wish to include them as a beneficiary or executor as a gesture of good will. No matter what your relationship with your ex-spouse is like, your estate plan should clearly express your wishes.

When your divorce is finalized, it will not automatically remove or disqualify your ex-spouse from their assigned or assumed roles listed your legal documents. A judge may rule that your divorce affects their ability to inherit, but your family may have to take them to court to prove this and pay legal fees through the value of your estate.

If you want to distance yourself from your ex-spouse, be sure to address the following documents related to your estate plan and update them to reflect your wishes:

  • Will, including Executor role
  • Power of Attorney or advance directive
  • Beneficiary of savings or retirement accounts
  • Beneficiary of insurance policies
  • Trust funds or guardianships
  • Joint assets such as cars or real estate

Keep in mind that it may be illegal to remove your spouse as a beneficiary before your divorce is settled. Always follow legal advice or court orders from a judge or attorney if you are looking to update your estate plan as part of your divorce proceedings.

In certain situations, re-planning your estate after a divorce can prove quite complicated. Whenever children (including step children or adopted children), pre-nuptial agreements or significant non-liquid assets are involved, you should take additional step to protect the people involved.

With the right help, you can tailor your estate plan to meet your exact needs. Correcting your estate documents today can clarify your final wishes tomorrow.