Most married people have estate plans leaving significant portions of their estates to their surviving spouse. Thus, if you get a divorce, it is easy to see why you would need to change your estate plan.
Most of the time, if you do not change your estate plan after getting a divorce, a judge will ordinarily disregard any specific bequests you made to your ex-spouse. The law assumes you would not want your estate to go to a former spouse.
However, as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog notes in a recent article titled “When Death Occurs Mid-Divorce,” the same thing is not true if you are in the divorce process ... but your divorce has not yet been finalized.
This is a common problem when a divorce has been filed and one of the parties passes away during the process. When that happens, it can cause issues with a family home that is owned by both parties. If the home is owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship (Kansas) or as tenants by the entireties (Missouri), then the property will automatically pass to the survivor. If the divorcing couple owns the home as tenants in common, however, the deceased party’s share of the home will go to his or her heirs.
As most couples own their property in a fashion whereby it will pass automatically to the surviving spouse, it is important to consult an estate planning attorney as early in the divorce process as possible.
It might be in the interests of both you and your spouse to sever the "survivorship" title to your home before the divorce is finalized. When getting divorced, there are many other estate planning issues you will need to consider during the process as the terms of the divorce will have a large impact on your eventual estate.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (July 25, 2014) “When Death Occurs Mid-Divorce”