Can I Protect My Estate from My Ex-Spouse?

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Your ex-spouse could inherit your estate without proper planning.

You are divorced.

This means you have an ex-spouse.

Divorce proceedings and laws governing divorce can feel complicated and overwhelming.

After the divorce is official, you likely do not want to thing about it ever again.

According to recent Nj.com article titled “My brother died of COVID-19. Should his ex-wife get an inheritance?,” you cannot afford to avoid the impact of divorce on your estate planning.

You will need to update your plan to keep your ex-spouse from inheriting.
You ex-spouse could inherit your assets if you fail to update your estate plan

In fact, failing to update your plan may entitle your ex-spouse to your assets when you die.

Yikes!

What can you do to avoid this unintended consequence?

For starters, review how your property is titled.

Is any you property owned between you and your ex-spouse as joint tenants with rights of survivorship?

If yes, then such property will pass immediately to the surviving owner.

Some states may automatically adjust the title after a divorce to function as tenancy in common ownership.

In this situation, each owner holds 50 percent of the property.

Upon the death of one owner, his or her portion of the property will enter probate and pass through the last will and testament of the decedent or under state intestacy laws (if there is no valid last will).

Although your ex-spouse may not automatically own your portion of the property, your probate proceedings could be complicated through the divided share in the property.

In addition to retitling property, you will want to review and update your beneficiary designations.

Did you know certain assets bypass probate and are instead distributed to heirs through beneficiary designations.

These include retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

If you want someone other than your ex-spouse to inherit, you will want to change the beneficiary designations on all such accounts and policies.

Another step, while you are at it, is to update your last will and testament.

If you do not have a last will and testament, your ex-spouse will likely not inherit as most state intestacy laws do not include distributions to an ex-spouse and many states even disinherit an ex-spouse under a last will.

But why take the chance?

In some instances, your estate planning choices regarding your ex-spouse will be limited by the language of your divorce decree.

As you update your documents, you will want to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

This professional will help you navigate your specific circumstances to best meet your needs.

Reference: nj.com (Aug. 4, 2020) “My brother died of COVID-19. Should his ex-wife get an inheritance?”

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