What Happens to My Estate Plan When I Divorce?
People often designate their spouse as a primary beneficiary in their will, trust, or beneficiary designation, but what happens in the case of divorce? Oftentimes, a person may neglect to update their testamentary plan following a divorce and leave their ex-spouse as a beneficiary. Thankfully, in Florida, several laws help automatically update a person’s estate plan upon divorce to avoid unintentionally bequeathing a gift to an ex-spouse.
Florida law provides that any provision of a will in favor of a divorced spouse treats that former spouse as if that spouse had already died. The controlling statute, Fla. Stat. § 732.507(2) states the following:
“Any provision of a will executed by a married person that affects the spouse of that person shall become void upon the divorce of that person or upon the dissolution or annulment of the marriage. After the dissolution, divorce, or annulment, the will shall be administered and construed as if the former spouse had died at the time of the dissolution, divorce, or annulment of the marriage, unless the will or the dissolution or divorce judgment expressly provides otherwise.”
The controlling statute for revocable trusts is Fla. Stat. § 736.1105 and its effect is essentially the same. Still, both wills and trusts have exceptions for when the will or the divorce judgment expressly provides otherwise.
Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts with a transfer on death designations also have special rules when it comes to divorce, but it wasn’t until as recently as 2012 that such protections were put in place. However, in 2012, the Florida Legislature enacted Fla. Stat. § 732.703, which makes these types of designations void if they were made prior to the dissolution of a marriage.
These protections only mean that a spouse will be treated as predeceased in the event of divorce. If you remarry, it does not automatically replace the beneficiary with the new spouse. And if you have not named a contingent beneficiary, then it is the same as if you have not named any beneficiary at all. So in the end, keeping your estate plan up to date is crucial. While Florida has certain safeguards to ensure that your assets end up where you intend, you should do everything you can to not let it get to that point. Any time a significant change in family, lifestyle or assets occurs, you should ensure your estate plan clearly reflects your intentions. Please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys of Chepenik Trushin LLP, Bart Chepenik, JD LL M (Taxation) at 305-613-3548, Brad Trushin, Esq, 305-981-8889, who are ready, willing, and able to assist with your estate planning needs.