Allison Harrison
June 4, 2024

I have divorced and remarried; do I need to update my will?

When you make a will, it reflects your life and relationships at that time. If you made your will during your previous marriage, it likely includes wishes and decisions based on that part of your life, including that spouse. But now, things have changed. You have a new spouse and maybe even new kids or step kids. Your old will might not match your current wishes or needs.

What Happens to My Old Will After I Remarry?

New Spouse’s Rights: When you get married, the law gives your new spouse certain rights to your stuff, even if your will doesn’t mention them. This means your new spouse can automatically get some of your belongings, even if your old will says they should go to someone else. However, your new spouse may face additional legal hurdles, having to challenge the old will that lists your old spouse. 

Ex-Spouse’s Rights: If you don’t update your will after remarrying, there can be confusion about who gets what, especially if your old will still mentions your ex. Additionally, there may be a fight in probate court between your ex and current spouse about who is entitled to what assets. 

Children and Step-Children: Things can get tricky if you have kids from your previous marriage and/or new step-kids. Your old will might provide for your children but does not provide for your stepchildren. Without an updated will, the stepchildren might not get any support from your estate. 

Legal Confusion :If you pass away with an old will after remarrying, it can create a legal mess. Legal messes cost money to hire attorneys and can delay assets being distributed. 

What Should I Do?

Update Your Will: This is a very important step. Make sure your will reflects your new life and relationships. Decide what you want to leave for your new spouse, children, step-children, and other loved ones.

Update Your Beneficiaries: While your will is very important, equally important are the beneficiaries of life insurance, retirement accounts, and investment portfolios. After your relationship changes, you should review your beneficiaries for all of your financial accounts. 

Consider a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement: If you want to make sure certain assets go to specific people (like children from your first marriage), a prenuptial (pre-marriage) or postnuptial (post-marriage) agreement can help. It’s an agreement you make with your new spouse before getting married, deciding how you’ll handle money and property. While many may think a prenuptial agreement is only for the wealthy, everyone can use one. It starts a conversation about each spouse’s financial situation and their expectations regarding future investments. 

Talk to a Lawyer: Creating an estate plan and prenuptial agreement can be complicated. Remarriage adds an extra level of complexity, especially if there are children from previous relationships. Talking with a lawyer can help you understand your options, the impact of your decisions, and what is right for you. 

Discuss with Your Family: It’s a good idea to talk to your family about your decisions. This can help everyone understand your wishes and reduce any surprises or hurt feelings later.

The Importance of Updating Your Estate Plan Amid Family Changes

Any time there is an addition or subtraction to your family, you should reevaluate your estate plan. This is especially true after getting divorced or remarried. Being proactive and updating your estate plan will reduce the stress on your family and reduce the confusion once you become a spirit in the sky.