If you are married and have a will as part of your estate plan, chances are you named your spouse as the beneficiary to receive most of your assets after you pass away. If you do not have a will, Washington law provides that half of your marital assets will automatically pass to your spouse after your death. But what steps should you take to amend your estate plan when you’re going through a divorce?
According to Washington law, any provision naming an ex-spouse as a beneficiary in a will or trust is automatically revoked after a divorce. The ex-spouse will be treated as if he or she has already passed away. The asset will go to the next beneficiary in line according to the will, trust or other document if an alternate beneficiary is named.
If there is no named alternate beneficiary, or if there is no will or trust, assets of the deceased will be distributed according to intestate succession laws. In Washington, these laws dictate that the assets will first pass to the children of the deceased, then the parents, then the siblings. Washington law prevents your ex-spouse from inheriting any of your assets after a divorce, but even so, your assets may not pass to those you would like them to.
That’s why after any life-changing event, it is a good idea to review your estate plan, but when you’re divorcing, it is imperative. If you have a will or trust, it may have to be amended or redrafted to name new beneficiaries. Retirement accounts, life insurance policies, stock portfolios and any other financial accounts may still have your ex-spouse named as the joint owner or beneficiary. Assets such as real property or vehicles may need to be retitled.
The purpose of an estate plan is to ensure that your assets are distributed the way you would like them to be after your death, but in addition to the other changes divorce brings, the process of creating or amending your will or trust can be daunting. It is easy to overlook an insurance policy or financial account when renaming beneficiaries. An experienced estate planning attorney can review your documents, ask the right questions and assist you with any beneficiary changes that need to be made to so that your wishes will be upheld once your marriage ends.
For help amending or drafting your estate plan when you divorce, contact Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. in Tacoma. Our attorney has nearly 20 years of experience drafting and revising wills and trusts for clients throughout Washington. Call us at 253-272-5653 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.