People often put off amending their estate plan until after their divorce is final. Regardless of when changes are made, if you’re divorcing, it’s crucial to understand what effect a divorce in Texas has on estate plans so that you can determine what and how you’ll need to change your various estate plan documents.
Texas probate law, unlike that in many other states, treats an ex-spouse the same as a deceased one. Specifically, “all provisions in (a) will, including all fiduciary appointments, shall be read as if the former spouse and each relative of the former spouse who is not a relative of the testator had failed to survive the testator.”
The same is true for “all provisions in (a) will disposing of property to an irrevocable trust” in which that ex-spouse or one of their relatives “is a beneficiary or is nominated to serve as trustee or in another fiduciary capacity….”
Your divorce settlement may affect certain designations involving your former spouse
What about accounts where a spouse is listed as a designated beneficiary? It’s important to review all beneficiary designations you’ve made outside of your estate plan to determine how to handle each one. You can designate new beneficiaries or re-designate your now-former spouse.
Note that your divorce settlement may require you to keep your former spouse as the designated beneficiary on some accounts – for example on a life insurance policy if you’re ordered to pay spousal support. Therefore, it’s wise to do a full review of your estate plan once your divorce is final.
Can you make changes prior to your final divorce decree?
There are other designations you can change prior to the finalization of your divorce if you choose. For example, if your spouse is your designated health care agent, you can replace them before your divorce is final if you don’t feel comfortable with them having that authority any longer.
Every divorce is unique, and every estate plan is unique. Therefore, it’s likely going to be crucial to have experienced legal guidance as you review and update your estate plan both prior to your divorce being finalized and afterwards. This can help to ensure that it reflects your current wishes and any requirements of your divorce settlement.