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Reviewing how divorce affects estate plans

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2019 | Estate Administration

Among the several important events that occur in the lives of Ocean County residents, two likely stand out from the rest: marriage and death. As odd as it may sound, the two are often inextricably linked, as when one marries, they assume the responsibility of caring for their spouse, and when they die, they have the responsibility of having planned to ensure that the care of their spouse continues. Information shared by the American Psychological Association shows that nearly 90 percent of adults in Western cultures marry. At the same time, 40-50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. What impact would a divorce have if one has already stipulated in their estate planning documents that their ex-spouse should be listed amongst their beneficiaries? 

Section 3B.3-14 of New Jersey’s state statutes addresses this very issue. Here it states that a divorce effectively revokes any of the following considerations made towards a testator’s ex-spouse (or any of the ex-spouse’s relatives): 

  • Dispositions of property or assets
  • Special powers of appointment
  • Nominations to any roles related to the administration of the estate

For intents and purposes, it would be as though the ex-spouse (and any of their relatives) had preceded the testator in death. 

What if, however, one wants their ex-spouse to remain a part of their estate plans? There may indeed be cases where it benefits them to do so (such as naming the ex-spouse as a trustee over assets intended for their children). To ensure that their ex-spouse remains in their will, one must amend it after their divorce recognizing that the marriage has ended, yet stipulating the terms under which their ex-spouse is to remain a part of (or even a beneficiary of) their estate.