Although never planned, divorce is a complication of life that affects many. What happens if your Will leaves everything to your now ex-spouse because you never changed the Will after a divorce? When you pass away, will your ex-spouse still get your assets?
Maintaining control of your estate includes making sure your assets go where you want them to go after you pass. This should be done with a written estate plan, including a Will or trust.
However, circumstances almost always change between the time you create a Will and the time of your passing. When those changes alter who you want to receive your assets, or the way you want them to receive those assets, it is critical that you change your Will or trust as soon as you can. If you create a Will but do not periodically review it, you may have an estate document, but you do not have an effective estate plan. An out-of-date estate document may actually undermine your estate plan.
As it relates to divorce, the State of Idaho has attempted to minimize the harm if there has been a divorce but no change to the prior Will. Idaho law prohibits a person from receiving the assets of an ex-spouse just because he or she was named in a Will created prior to the divorce.
However, divorce is just one of many challenges that affect people’s lives, and their estate plan. There are many other situations which may arise, with no law in place to protect you if you failed to adjust your estate plan. You should certainly review your estate plan if/when any significant change (i.e., divorce, bankruptcy, disability) affects you or your intended beneficiaries.
It is always best to have a Will or trust adjusted, as needed, to protect your estate. Even this law, addressing divorces occurring after creation of a Will, may not be as effective as you might think. Next column I will give an example.