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When to Review a Will: Divorce or Death of a Spouse

It is important to continuously review your Will throughout your Will, and especially important after a divorce or death of a spouse. Read below to learn more.

Creating a Will is a crucial step to take in your estate planning process. In fact, it is often the number one document people think of when it comes to estate planning. Occasionally, when you get married, you may create a joint Will with your spouse, as you often regard the majority of if not all belongings on a joint basis. Even if you do not have a joint Will, it is likely you had to make adjustments to your Will after you got married. However, what do you do when you get divorced or your spouse passes away? How do you go about reviewing your Will in these new and unforeseen circumstances? Trust & Will, a leader in online estate planning services, knows that it is already a challenging time to either divorce your spouse or lose them entirely. We want to help lighten the burden on your shoulders by helping you better understand how to review your Will in these events and what the best course of action will be. In this article, we cover the following:

What is a Will?

Before we go over how to review your Will, it is important to understand what a Will really is. A Will is a legal document that details who you are leaving your assets to, which can be anything from your car, to your house, property, or jewelry. In your Will, you will be able to label Beneficiaries of each item, which is the person who will retain ownership of the asset in your absence. For more information, refer to our “What is a Will” guide. 

What do I do when I get divorced?

Once you and your spouse are divorced and have split up all assets evenly, you will want to create a new Will. Below are the tips for the steps you should take and the questions you will want to consider.

Scratch Your Previous Will and Create a New One

Since your previous Will was made with the notion that you and your spouse would be leaving your assets to both your loved ones and your spouse’s loved ones and accounts for your joint assets, you will want to destroy the original Will entirely. If your Will was made on paper, consider burning it or shredding it. If it was online, consider getting it deleted. Additionally, you will want to state at the top of the new Will that this current Will negates all previously created Wills and include the date that the Will was created. This will ensure that even if you do not manage to destroy all versions of the previous Will, it will still be legally negated and not be used. 

Re-evaluate Your Assets 

Now that your divorce is finalized and your assets are split up, you will want to review all of the assets that you kept in the divorce.  This will help you have a better idea of what assets you will need to include in your new Will and help you begin to re-evaluate the amount of assets available to you to leave to your loved ones, as it is likely that you may have to decrease the amount of assets and inheritance you leave your Beneficiaries in the wake of your divorce.

Figure Out Who Should Be Included Within Your New Will

After your divorce, you will need to re-evaluate who in your life you want to leave assets and inheritance to. It is possible that you and your spouse had your own lists of people you wanted included within your Will, and this may change now that you are separated. For example, it is possible that you and your spouse had children from previous marriages that you both included within your joint Will or separate Wills. However, you may find now that you have split up that your spouse’s children are no longer in your life and you no longer wish to leave them an inheritance. On the other hand, you may find that you still want to leave them an inheritance. The decision is up to you, but it will be important to consider these questions.

What do I do when my spouse passes away?

When your spouse passes away, the options of reviewing your Will may look a bit different than if you were divorced, depending on which type of Will you have created.

When You Have a Joint Will

If you and your spouse had a Joint Will, it most likely states that when one spouse passes away, all assets are left to the living spouse. However, the joint Will that you and your spouse created cannot be destroyed the way it would be able to be destroyed if you got divorced. When one spouse passes away, it will remain legally binding and changes can only be made under very rare circumstances. Thus, no new will can be created. This is one of the reasons that people are beginning to move away from creating joint Wills, as circumstances can greatly change after the death of a spouse.

When You Have Separate Wills

If you and your spouse had created separate Wills, the options available to you will be much larger. Once your spouse passes away, you may want to re-evaluate how this may affect your own personal Will separate from your spouse. For example, the medical bills of their passing may have been significant if they had an illness, and this may have resulted in the amount of inheritance you can leave behind decreasing significantly, and even result in less assets to leave behind. You will want to re-evaluate your Will with this new information, and over the years periodically come back to adjust your Will as your circumstances continue to change. 

Reviewing your Will is an ever-evolving process that needs to occur when circumstances change, including when you either get divorced or your spouse passes away. Here at Trust & Will, we’re here to help make these changes easier with our online estate planning services, which allow you to put together a comprehensive Estate Plan, all from the comfort of your home. Consider getting started today!

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