Naturally, a person would list their spouse and children as beneficiaries in an estate plan, whether it be a will, revocable trust, or transfer on death setups. But in case of major life changes such as a divorce, can an ex spouse still receive a portion of an estate? What if they are still named as a beneficiary in the estate document.
General Rule: The Law Removes the Right of a Former Spouse to the Other’s Estate
The statutes protect the estate of a deceased in cases of divorce. By law, a divorce decree that severs a marriage also severs any reference to the former spouse in a will or trust document. This means that a divorce decree automatically deletes an ex spouse from the will of the other, regardless of whether or not the will was amended or changed.
As a result, an ex no longer has a right to the estate and will not receive a share of the inheritance. This is the general rule, however, it does not come without exceptions.
Exceptions to the General Rule: The Decree Specifies That the Former Spouse Gets a Share
In some divorce cases, the court may decree that the former spouse should get a share of the estate upon the death of the other. This usually comes into play where the former spouse is to be named as the beneficiary of some life insurance or other document.
For example, the court can decree that one spouse names the other as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy for the next few years. However, if it’s not in the decree, the former spouse cannot get a share of the estate.
Can a Former Spouse Sue for a Share of the Estate?
The former spouse can sue for a share of their ex’s estate. However, the chances of them winning their case and receiving a claim are very slim. A lot of people make the mistake of settling to avoid the lawsuit.
But because the divorce decree has removed a former spouse’s right to the estate of their ex, they will not be awarded a share. Being informed of this protects a person from any estate claims initiated by their former spouse.