Oct 12, 2022
What Happens to My Estate Plan in a Divorce ?
All couples who are divorcing need to revisit their estate plans. For our clients at the Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation, we always ask the parties if they created estate plans during the term of their marriage. Many of them have not previously done so; at the conclusion of their divorce we will strongly advise them of the need to do so, and we have a robust referral network that will send them to counsel who will provide expert advice in the creation of an estate plan.
Debbie Y. Schneider, Esq., an Attorney at Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation talks about estate plans during a divorce.
If a person drafts a will before marriage and do not amend the will to include their new spouse, upon death the surviving spouse can take their “intestate share” of the estate. Intestate means passing away without a will. Ideally, spouses with previously drawn wills will update their wills to include their new spouses. Revising gives the most control over the disposition of all assets.
On the other hand, if someone drafts a will, acknowledging that they have a spouse, but deliberately leaving the spouse without any beneficiary designations, then that person is setting up for their all of their heirs to have a problem down the road. Upon the death of the original drafter of the will, there will undoubtedly be a will contest, and often lengthy and disruptive litigation in Orphan’s Court.
Most importantly, Pennsylvania is an automatic revocation state, which means that upon the final divorce decree, all beneficiary designations to a now ex-spouse are revoked, by operation of law. For couples who have wills, the most important take away is that those wills must be updated, as soon as possible following the finalization of the divorce. Ideally, the revision process should begin before the final divorce decree. The creation of simple estate plans is not an overwhelming or enormously expensive enterprise, and the peace of mind that the creation of an estate plan will provide you is worth the time and expense involved.
Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation