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How Divorce Affects Your Will

Divorce Concept
If you are divorced, or considering a divorce, then one of the legal documents that will be affected is your will. When your marriage status changes, such as through a divorce or separation, this document will need updating. If you don't update your will in a timely manner, then it could cause problems for your estate and your heirs when you die. Here are some of the things you should pay attention to in order to keep your will in good order during and after your divorce.

Neglecting to Update Your Will

In Georgia, if you divorce and die before you change your will, then the will will be treated as if your spouse has died before you. Therefore, anything that you designated to your husband or wife will be null and void and go on to the next beneficiary. This can leave gaps in your will that may cause problems down the road when it comes to distributing your estate.

Choosing an Alternate Beneficiary

Chances are that you originally left most of your assets to your spouse and never thought about an alternate beneficiary because divorce was not on your mind at the time. Not having an alternate executor can also cause problems and possibly leave your will intestate. This means that the state will decide who gets what when you pass away. It's always a good idea to designate an alternate beneficiary when creating a will. 

Replacing or Revising Your Will

You have two choices with updating your will: you can either revoke or revise it. You can revoke your will simply by destroying the original one. However, this can cause problems as there's likely a copy available which could be legally acceptable in court. Your best bet is to create an entirely new will with wording that specifically says that this new will supersedes, or revokes, the previous one. You do not need to tell any of the previous beneficiaries that you are changing the will.

Being Aware of Unusual Conditions and Circumstances

Divorce often takes a little time before it's finalized, and many things can happen between its start and finish. Also, there's always a chance that you and your spouse will reconcile or remarry. This could cause some unusual circumstances.

Death Before the Divorce is Completed

Your spouse may still inherit anything you have designated for him or her in your will if you die before the final decree. However, if you were already considered legally separated, then your spouse may have less of a claim on your estate. If you have already created a new will without your spouse, then you will ensure that new will is the one that is in effect.

Remarriage

If you and your spouse reconcile or get remarried, then he or she is reinstated as the beneficiary as long as you haven't already changed the will. If you've revoked the old will and have not included your spouse in the new one, then he or she will not receive any benefits. In Georgia, it is perfectly legal to disinherit a spouse and leave them with nothing from your estate, so there's little or no recourse for him or her.

Though you have plenty to think about when you get a divorce, one of the first things you should do is take care of your will, especially if your spouse played a major role in your estate. If you fail to update it, then you could risk leaving your estate intestate and having the government decide what to do with your assets.

If you are going through a divorce, or you just finished the process, you may wish to contact an attorney for advice on what to do with your will. The law firm of Brimberry, Kaplan & Brimberry P.C. can help you with both these issues so that your divorce and changes to your will go smoothly.

Brimberry, Kaplan & Brimberry P.C.

408 N. Jackson St.
Albany, GA 31701
Phone: 229-436-0537
Toll Free: 877-757-7730

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