If you have been listening to estate planning experts, then you are likely already engaged in the process of determining the dispersal of your assets to your beneficiaries once you are gone. Part of that planning includes creating a will, and if you have already done so, then you are well ahead of many other adults in Florida.
Yet one important point to remember about estate planning is that the process is fluid. As changes to your circumstances occur throughout your life, your desires as to how you want your estate administered may also change.
The effect of divorce on your estate
One such change is divorce. If you were married at the time you created your will, then your spouse likely figured heavily into your plans. Yet if that spouse has since become your ex, then your feelings towards his or her role in your estate have almost certainly changed. If you do not remove your ex from your will, could he or she stand to benefit from your estate when you die?
According to Section 732.703 of Florida’s state statutes, the answer to that question is no. The law views your divorce as an implication that you no longer plan on including your ex-spouse in your estate. Thus, any provisions related to this individual that are in your will should be automatically invalid once your divorce becomes final. From a legal perspective, it would be as though he or she preceded you in death.
Keeping your ex-spouse in your estate plans
While you almost certainly will want to change your ex-spouse’s role in your estate, there may be legitimate reasons why you would want to continue for him or her to have a role in it. For example, you may want to name your children as your primary beneficiaries. However, if they are not yet at an age to manage their inheritance wisely, you may want to consider putting those funds in a trust with your ex-spouse as the trustee.
If you want to do this, however, you need to stipulate it in your estate plans. The law will only recognize your ex-spouse’s continued role in your estate if you detail it in writing.