Updating Your Estate Plan During AND After Divorce

Divorce is a major life event. That’s almost all you can think about before and after filing the petition, and for a while after the process is complete. Hiring a caring law firm can help your divorce go smoothly, but you do have another legal area to address while all of this is going on: your estate plan. The bottom line: you should start updating your plan as soon as possible. 

Your Ex-Spouse Will Automatically Be Removed

The good news is that your ex-spouse’s name is revoked from a Will, most trusts, and powers of attorney. This is the case in Washington state and many other states, but this does not mean the state will take care of everything that needs to be done. Even when your former spouse’s name is removed from certain estate planning documents, that creates a hole in your plan. For example, not having an alternate agent filled in on your healthcare power of attorney means the form will not accomplish what you hoped it would. The same goes for your Will. Who will inherit the portion of your estate meant for your ex-spouse?

Further complicating matters is the fact that Washington is one of nine community property states. That means there is a presumption that each spouse has an equal share of marital property (property and assets that were gained by either spouse during the marriage). Even destroying your old Will and making a new one might not help. This confusion is exactly why it’s important to have the help of a quality lawyer. 

During the Process

Even the simplest divorces in Washington typically last at least a few months. During this period of time, your estate plan is vulnerable. As we mentioned earlier, your spouse’s name will only be removed from your estate plan once he or she becomes your former spouse. If something were to happen to you before the final divorce decree is approved, your spouse could still inherit. You will likely be subject to a temporary order that forbids you from taking certain actions after the divorce process kicks off, which could include restrictions on changing beneficiary designations on retirement accounts. 


While state law might save you from having your estate go to an ex-spouse if you fail to update your plan on time, the best course of action is to start thinking about modifications before you file. If you have already filed for divorce or are going through with the process, you should promptly review your current plan and make any necessary changes soon.

However, because of Washington law surrounding marital property and the generally complex nature of estate planning, you should have the help of an attorney — preferably one with experience handling family law AND estate planning matters. McMahon Law Group has you covered there. Reach out today to set up a consultation with our team and discuss your options.  

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McMahon Law Group

Legal issues of any type can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, and certainly something you don’t want to face alone. Attorney Jacque McMahon and the McMahon Law Group will work closely with you to ensure you not only get the best legal representation possible, but that you are well-informed throughout the process. If you are facing legal issues, please contact us to discuss your situation and get the help you need.

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