Updating Your Estate Plan After Divorce: Why It’s Essential
Jon Peters is a movie producer associated with many well-known projects including A Star Is Born, Batman, Man of Steel, The Color Purple, and Clue. In 2020 he married Pamela Anderson but their relationship lasted only 10 days. Even though the couple is no longer together, Peters recently revealed that he left $10 million to Anderson in his Last Will and Testament. So, would the result be different if he had left the gift to her before the relationship terminated?
Married couples executing an estate plan during their marriage generally provide that upon the death of one spouse, everything is to be distributed to the survivor. The other spouse is usually also named as the beneficiary of life insurance and retirement plans. Unfortunately, in many instances when a couple goes through a divorce, updating their estate plans is the last thing on their mind.
Effect of Divorce on Estate Plans
In Nevada, a divorce decree automatically revokes any disposition or appointment of property made by a divorced person to his or her former spouse in a will or trust. In addition, any nomination of a divorced person’s former spouse or a relative of the divorced person’s former spouse to serve as a personal representative, executor, trustee, conservator, agent, or guardian is revoked. In other words, if I nominate my spouse to serve as the personal representative of my estate and leave everything to her in my will, and we get divorced, she is eliminated as a beneficiary. She cannot serve as the personal representative.
This is why it’s important to update your estate plan after a divorce! If there is no alternate named as personal representative, then someone else will have to petition to be appointed as the administrator of the estate. In addition, if the will or trust doesn’t identify alternate beneficiaries, your assets may end up being distributed to someone you never intended to receive anything because of intestate succession laws.
Change of an Estate Plan Pending Divorce
It is common during a divorce proceeding for one of the spouses to apply to the court for a restraining order which indicates that neither party may transfer property to a third person during the course of the divorce proceedings. However, NRS 111 provides that unless a court in a divorce action specifically orders otherwise, a restraining order does not prevent a party from changing beneficiary designations that specify who will receive the party’s assets upon their death.
This makes sense since the change of a beneficiary designation isn’t a transfer of an asset during the divorce. We recently encountered a situation in which the spouses were in a bitter and lengthy divorce and the husband died before the divorce was finalized. Although the husband didn’t have a will, the result was that the surviving spouse received all the community property despite the ongoing divorce proceedings. His children from a prior marriage ended up receiving very few of their father’s assets and this result could have been avoided. Had the husband executed a new will, he could have ensured his children received his share of the community property and all of his separate property.
Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified estate planning attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. A review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.