Estate Planning During Divorce

Divorce is one of the major life events, after which both former spouses should update their estate plan. However, this recent article discusses why it is important for New Jersey residents to consider and revise their estate plans before, during, and after the divorce proceedings.

Before The Divorce
New Jersey law makes it difficult to disinherit a current, cohabitating spouse. If you disinherit a spouse in your will, but do not divorce them before your death, New Jersey law entitles that spouse to a one third share of the “augmented estate.” An augmented estate is the total value of the estate less administration expenses, funeral expenses, and any enforceable claims. Importantly, an elective share is only available to surviving spouses who were still living with the decedent before his or her death.

During The Divorce
If you die amidst divorce proceedings — before your divorce is finalized — any provisions of your will that benefit your spouse are fully enforceable under New Jersey law. Divorcing spouses who are presumably no longer living with one another should therefore consider making desired changes to their will immediately.

After The Divorce
If you die after your divorce is finalized, New Jersey law automatically revokes any provisions of your will that benefit your former spouse. The applicable law is N.J. Stat. Ann. 3B 3-4, which states, “If after having executed a will the testator is divorced or the marriage is annulled, any dispositions or appointments of property made by the will to the former spouse are revoked.”