Nashville Attorney Lisa Ewing


Many people create their first will after getting married. However, if you are now divorced or going through a divorce, it may be time to look again at your estate plan. A married person will usually plan his or her will together with the spouse, and often has many provisions regarding the spouse in the will. After divorce, it is likely that plan is no longer appropriate.

State Laws Vary

A few states will revoke a will after a divorce entirely. Others will simply ignore provisions that relate to the ex-spouse. However, in any case, it is likely that creating new estate planning documents is a simpler and more secure way to plan for the care of your family.

Nor are the issues solely related to asset distribution in your will. Other documents common to estate planning, such as health care directives and durable powers of attorney, should be changed immediately so that your ex-spouse is not in charge of financial or health care decisions in the event you are incapacitated.

Similarly, after a divorce, you will likely want to change the beneficiary (the person receiving the property) for the following:

  • Any trust provisions listing your spouse should be amended
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement plans
  • IRAs
  • Property with right of survivorship, such as payable-on-death bank accounts

These documents cannot be revoked through a will; rather you must revoke each one individually.

Other Relationships and Stepchildren

In addition to a post-divorce review of your estate plan, other relationships, such as remarriage, new children or children from a previous relationship, may be more likely to prompt a reorganization of the distribution of estate assets. When these circumstances apply, an individual should be especially careful that his or her will and or postnuptial agreement reflects his or her intentions.

Some divorcing couples may actually still want to retain certain provisions for an ex-spouse. However, in order to do that, you may have to make a specific amendment to your will stating so, as your state’s law may assume that you no longer wish to provide an ex-spouse with assets or decision-making powers.

After Divorce, Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

Many attorneys and law firms are able to take care of both your divorce and your estate planning needs. Discuss with your attorney how your divorce will affect your estate plan.