Does Divorce Invalidate Gifts to Your Ex-Spouse in Your Will?

When you get divorced, you may wonder if the divorce decree invalidates gifts to your ex-spouse made in your will. In Illinois, a divorce nullifies any language in your will that makes your ex-spouse an heir.

Effect of Divorce on Gifts

The effect of divorce on gifts varies somewhat from state to state. The type of gift matters too. In Illinois, any gifts made to an ex-spouse in a will signed before the divorce cannot be enforced. The ex-spouse will not inherit no matter what.

It does not matter how specific the will’s language is – all gifts to ex-spouses are not valid. It also does not matter when the will was made. In one legal case, the testator signed his will long before his marriage when he decided to leave his estate to his friend. Later, he married the friend, and then they got divorced. The court found that his gift to his ex-wife was not valid, regardless of the fact that he made the will before the marriage and before the divorce.

However, the rule is different for life insurance policies in Illinois. There is no Illinois law that removes your ex-spouse as beneficiary of your life insurance policies. The reasoning is that if you wanted to change the beneficiary, you could have done so. As a result, you must review your life insurance after divorce. If your ex-spouse is the beneficiary and you do not want him or her to receive the proceeds, then update your beneficiary designation.

Updating Your Will After Divorce

Because of the effect of divorce on testamentary gifts in Illinois, you must update your will after a divorce. If you do not update the will, then the probate court will simply disregard a gift to your ex-spouse and distribute the estate to your other heirs. This may have a result that you did not intend. Updating your will is the best way to have peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out.

If you still want to leave property to your ex-spouse (perhaps you are on friendly terms, or he or she needs support), then you can. First, make sure the will is dated after the date of the final divorce decree. Also, you should consult a wills and trusts lawyer to ensure that the will includes appropriate language about the gift to your ex-spouse.

Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

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