Your Will After Divorce
March 7th, 2023
The divorce process requires navigating and coping with many transitions, both personal and financial. Amid this temporary storm, it’s easy and perhaps natural for some details to be overlooked. But there can be long-lasting consequences. Many, if not most, married couples name each other as their primary heirs in their wills. Many do not know, however, that when divorce becomes final such will provisions are automatically revoked. It is important to get the information and assistance you need when going through a divorce so that the provisions in your will are as you wanted.
Connecticut General Statutes section 45a-257c provides: “[i]f, after executing a will, the testator’s marriage is terminated by dissolution, divorce or annulment, the dissolution, divorce or annulment shall revoke any disposition or appointment of property made by the will to the former spouse….” This is, in itself, a good thing, a saving mechanism. Although there is an exception if “the will expressly provides otherwise”, the law recognizes that situations where a divorced spouse would still want to give most, or any, of his or her property to the ex are few and far between.
But the law also creates ambiguity, and in some cases a vacuum. The statute also provides that “[p]roperty prevented from passing to a former spouse due to revocation by dissolution, divorce or annulment shall pass as if the former spouse failed to survive the testator….” What exactly does that mean, in your case? Who does the property go to if those will provisions are revoked? Is it even clear? The question to which I always return with clients is whether predictable outcomes are consistent with what is wanted. After all, it’s your will!
Letting the chips fall where they may seldom, if ever, is a good idea. For example, many, if not most married couples also nominate their spouse as fiduciary or executor of their wills. But the statute also revokes “any nomination of the former spouse as executor, trustee, conservator, guardian or other fiduciary….” Who is the substitute fiduciary under your existing will? Your ex-brother-in-law? You might want to re-think that! The smart thing to do after any major life event is to sit down with your estate planning lawyer to review your will, estate plans, and financial documents and make changes as necessary.
The simplest way to prevent such problems is to review your will with an attorney during the divorce process. In most cases, executing a new will and revoking your old will might be in order. I will be happy to help you with that. I represent people in Hartford and Litchfield County who need help with divorce and related family law issues. Please contact me today online or at (860) 926-1697 to schedule a confidential consultation to see how I can help you.