Divorce can affect your will and other documents

When you get divorced, the last thing on your mind is likely to be documents such as your will. But after a divorce, it’s important to revise your will and other important documents, such as your power of attorney and health care proxy. These documents may contain provisions relating to a former spouse, former in-laws or stepchildren.

In some states, a divorce automatically revokes any bequest in a will to a former spouse. But this isn’t always the case. And in any event, once you get divorced your financial picture will have changed, and you’ll want to review all your estate planning decisions.

In a recent case, a Maryland man had a will with bequests to his wife and to members of the wife’s family. He didn’t bother to change the will after his divorce, and then he died. As a result of the law, his bequests to his wife were automatically revoked. But what about the bequests to members of her family?

The case went all the way to Maryland’s highest court. The court analyzed the will to determine if the husband was motivated by the marriage to create the bequests to his ex-wife’s family members, or whether he had independent reasons.

In the end, it decided that there were no individual factors concerning the wife’s relatives that would justify enforcing the bequests. But the family would have saved a lot of trouble and expense if he had simply updated his will.