The U.S. Census Bureau reported that as of 2009, more than 50 percent of first marriages in this country ended in divorce. The divorce rates for second and third marriages were even higher, and almost 75 percent of third marriages ended in divorce. Unfortunately, divorcing spouses caught up in the turmoil of untangling their married lives during the divorce process may not consider their futures without their spouses, and few of them may think about their estate planning documents. Many divorcees forget about changing their wills and revising them.
Divorce is a life-changing event, and not all divorcing spouses seriously consider revising their wills to ensure their former spouses will not inherit their property upon death. If you draft your will while married and subsequently divorce your spouse, will your former spouse inherit your property? That depends on your state’s probate and divorce laws. According to New York law, absent a specific provision to the contrary in your will, any provisions in your will dealing with your former spouse are void after a divorce. However, you still will need to update your will to be sure your affairs are handled properly by the person(s) of your choosing.
In making sure that divorcing spouses could rely on New York state default laws if they failed to amend or revoke their wills after divorce, the New York General Assembly considered situations in which divorcing spouses unintentionally left their wills intact after finalizing their divorces. For blended families and families with children from previous marriages, amending or updating estate planning documents is especially important. Because both spouses may have children from previous marriages and may have children together, drafting new wills and other estate planning documents forces these spouses to avoid making unintended bequests through proper estate planning.