How Does Divorce Affect My Estate Planning

15 March

How Does Divorce Affect My Estate Planning

Going through a divorce even with a premarital agreement is typically a very emotional and frustrating experience. It is easy to see how after filing paperwork regarding custody, parenting, drafting motions, marital agreements, and more, one’s estate is something that is often overlooked. While this is common, failing to plan and address an estate plan after your divorce can significantly impact how your property is distributed upon your death. There are numerous types of estate plans, all affected by divorce differently. The law provides some sort of protection, but for the most part, these are not safeguards you can depend on. 

Many of the estate plans you will come across consist of a last will and testament. In Missouri, there are certain procedures that are followed when addressing a will during or after a divorce. The law states: “If after making a will the testator is divorced, all provisions in the will in favor of the testator’s spouse so divorced are thereby revoked but the effect of the revocation shall be the same as if the divorced spouse had died at the time of the divorce.” Put into simple terms, the law in Missouri will treat the will post divorce as if your now ex-spouse had died before you did. However, this law does not completely keep your ex-spouse from receiving property. Now that an important individual in your will is now void, the property might be passed to individuals you did not intend to receive the property. Also, any part of your will involving your now ex spouse, including sections for guardians of children, can become void, or ineffective.  

If your estate plan is more complicated than most, it might include a trust. Specifically a revocable, or irrevocable trust. Missouri trusts codes are very complex, and all trusts affect ownership rights to some degree. Trusts are not included in the law previously mentioned. Therefore, if you fail to amend or terminate a trust in which property is awarded before your divorce, this might allow your ex-spouse to inherit property. 

Regarding non-probate transfers such as a payable on death, there are protections awarded by Missouri law. The law states: “If, after an owner makes a beneficiary designation, the owner’s marriage is dissolved or annulled, any provision of the beneficiary designation in favor of the owner’s former spouse or a relative of the owner’s former spouse is revoked on the date the marriage is dissolved or annulled, whether or not the beneficiary destination refers to marital status. The beneficiary designation shall be given effect as if the former spouse or relative of the former spouse had disclaimed the revoked provision.” 

For example, if a car is to be transferred to your ex-spouse upon death. Missouri law will treat your ex-spouse as having waived their right to claim the vehicle upon your death. Again, while this may keep your ex from receiving certain assets, and property, without a new beneficiary, the property may very well go through probate. 

Have more questions regarding divorce or premarital agreement? 

If you have any more questions regarding a premarital agreement, divorce, estate planning, or anything else family law-related. Please do not hesitate to contact the legal experts at Flesner Wentzel Law today!