The Impact of Divorce on your Last Will and Testament

Divorce in Estate Planning

Many states require that a spouse receive some part of property held during the marriage upon the death of the other spouse.  A spouse’s share of the estate is referred to as “an elective share”. Each state has different laws regarding a spouse’s elective share. In New York and New Jersey, a spouse is entitled to one-third of the “net estate” as defined by New York Statute. In New Jersey the spouse is entitled to one-third of the “augmented estate” as defined by statute.

Estate Law Following a Divorce

The law in New York and New Jersey states that even if your spouse is listed in your will, if you are file for divorce after the drafting of the will, the will is interpreted as if the spouse had died at the time of the divorce.  The best thing to do if you are going through, or have been through, a divorce is to update your will so there is no question as to where your assets should go. You may actually want your former spouse to receive something, or you may have a new person in your life who should be included in the will.

Joint Accounts and Beneficiaries

Every person has assets which pass through beneficiary designations or joint ownership rather than through a will document. Bank accounts which are held jointly, or other property held in joint tenancy will pass to your former spouse unless you take steps to change the ownership as part of, or following, your divorce.

See Part Two for more on changing beneficiary designations.

Getting Legal Help

Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Elga Goodman can help you sort through the tangled web of beneficiary designations and updating your will following a divorce. Contact us today at 973-841-5111 and know that your estate is in order.

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