Divorce is stressful, especially when it’s a complicated divorce
or minor children are involved. When spouses file for divorce, their minds
are on child custody, asset and debt division, and spousal support. They’re
more worried about what to do with the house than they are about their
estate plan. However, all divorcing spouses should focus attention on
their estate planning documents as soon as the divorce is final.
Even if you don’t have a
trust, you probably have a retirement account, brokerage accounts, a life insurance
policy, or payable-on-death bank accounts that name your current spouse
as the beneficiary. If you’re like most people, your spouse is named
as the beneficiary on more than one of these types of accounts.
Revoking the Original Will
Under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 32-1-202, if you execute a will
and your marriage dissolves, the divorce will revoke any disposition of
property to your former spouse, which was bequeathed in the will, unless
you specifically state otherwise. The divorce also revokes your spouse
as an executor or trustee.
While divorce automatically disinherits former spouses in Tennessee (as
far as wills are concerned), it’s still important to re-write your
will after the divorce. You don’t want to rely on state law. By
literally destroying the old will and creating a new will, you’re
eliminating any confusion about the assets you previously left to your
Removing Your Spouse as a Beneficiary
The assets passed through
beneficiary designations are not subject to
probate. Instead, they pass outside of the will and avoid the probate process altogether.
If you’re getting a divorce and your spouse is a beneficiary on
any of the following types of accounts, you’ll want to remove him
or her as soon as possible and put down a new beneficiary:
- Life insurance
- Payable-on-death bank accounts
- IRAs and 401(k)s
- Transfer-on-death brokerage accounts
Not only will you want to revise your estate plan immediately following
your divorce, if you re-marry, you may need to update the documents again,
especially if you have children from your first marriage or a previous
relationship. Essentially, whenever you experience a major life change,
such as a divorce, re-marriage, or birth of a child or grandchild, you
should review your estate planning documents to ensure everything is up-to-date
and reflects your wishes.
Getting a divorce or remarrying?
Contact my firm to schedule a consultation.