Will a Divorce Affect My Will?

August 28, 2023
West Chester Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Can Help With Estate Planning After a Major Life Event

Many important life events can affect how assets and property are distributed according to a person’s will, such as the death of a beneficiary or the purchasing of a house. One major life event that affects a will is divorce. If you divorce and do not make legal changes or create a new will, you can adversely affect your estate, and your wishes may not be honored as instructed. 

Each state handles this common scenario differently. More than half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, so each state has laws to follow to distribute assets. In Pennsylvania, a divorce does affect different estate planning designations. Some estate planning documents are affected when the divorce is filed, while others are impacted when the grounds for divorce are established. A few are affected by the divorce decree:

  • Revocation of power of attorney: When filing a divorce petition, any provision that names the spouse as power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, or advanced medical directives are revoked. The designation is upheld if the power of attorney is clear that the spouse remains the agent after death. 
  • Revocation of provisions: Revocation of requirements occurs once the grounds for divorce are established, during the proceedings, not at filing. Once grounds are established, any terms of the will that name the former spouse will be revoked, including fiduciary or beneficiary. Any provision in the will related to the testator’s spouse is ineffective unless that provision is intended to survive a divorce. 
  • Revocation of conveyances: Any provision in a conveyance, or transfer of property, revocable at the time of the conveyor’s death and related to the former spouse becomes ineffective unless it appears in the will that the provision was intended to survive the divorce. 
  • Revocation of beneficiary designations: Beneficiary designations on financial holdings such as bank accounts or life insurance policies are automatically invalid after the testator’s death if the divorce is final or the grounds for divorce have been established. They are not immediately revoked if the divorce petition is filed.     

If the former spouse was named executor of the will or a trust, this would be revoked upon divorce, naming the alternate executor instead. The probate court would appoint someone according to state law if no alternate executor was named in the will. 

Under Pennsylvania law, a divorce does not revoke an entire will, nor does it mean that a will created before your marriage becomes effective.

If your will does not specify what happens to your will’s instructions after a divorce or death of your former partner, the rules of intestacy would likely apply, similar to those that are effective when someone dies without a will. 

If you do not update your will after filing a divorce, it will likely not represent your wishes or how you intend your assets to be divided upon your death. You should update your estate plan with a lawyer.

West Chester Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Can Help With Estate Planning After a Major Life Event

If you plan on getting divorced, consider how it will affect your and your family’s future, particularly when you pass away. For legal help, contact our West Chester estate lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Call 610-565-3701 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.