Updating Your Will After Divorce

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediator; California Divorce MediatorsDuring a divorce, you work through all the intricacies of dividing the marital assets and determining alimony payments if needed. But what if all your best laid plans go awry because you overlooked one document you prepared a decade or more ago, when things were better between you and your spouse? The will.

Why people update their wills after divorce

If you do not want your retirement savings and property which you battled tooth and nail for to pass to the very adversary you wrestled it from, then updating your will becomes critical. It is also important if you do not want property held by you to pass into the hands of the new spouse if your ex remarries. Most important, however, if you wish to give the property or assets to your children, this will pave the way for them. They will be able to inherit without the added hassle of a legal battle with your ex (especially if they are your kids from an earlier marriage, or a new one) or long-winded court procedures to prove their rights to the estate. In some cases, the very executor of your will may have been your spouse – something that calls for needed change.

Updating your will: What you should take care of

To update your will, you need to start by “revoking” the old will by destroying it. Then, put together (with the help of a financial advisor and legal team if need be), a new outline for a will describing who each asset should go to.

You will also need to identify someone to be the executor of this new will. It could be somebody different to the first time around, especially if that was someone you no longer communicate with like your spouse’s friend/colleague. Also suggest an alternate if your first choice isn’t available.

If you have custody of your kids and don’t want your spouse to have them after you are gone, mention this and add supportive documentation. While this is no guarantee, the judge may give it some thought. A guardian should also be named, in the event both you and your spouse pass on.

Also check that all financial documents for items beyond the purview of the will are updated to reflect new beneficiaries.

Revising your will after the divorce

Estate planning after divorce becomes an important activity that is sometimes overlooked, especially if you didn’t hire a financial advisor to work with you during the divorce process.  It is never too soon to update your will and plan for your estate.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.