Yes, your divorce will revoke a will!

I had a coffee with a friend over the weekend and she told me her sister’s divorce was now finalised.  Her sister was ‘free of her ex’ and she and her two small children can now get on with her lives.

As much as I tried to slow down my ‘legal brain’, I couldn’t help but wonder if my friend’s sister had updated her Will?  I wondered if the sister even thought about making a Will?  Probably not.  Most people that get divorced don’t think about updating their Will.  If anything, their focus is about getting their lives back on track and finding their ‘new normal’.

But you know what. Tragedies happen, even to people that get divorced. And sadly, their children and loved ones usually end up worse off.

Divorce has an impact on your Will and the lives of your loved ones

A couple of years ago, I had 3 clients who experienced first hand the effect of their mother not updating her Will after she her divorce was finalised by the Family Court.

My clients, Joe, Emily and Alex were the adult children of Maria.  My clients’ father died when they were in their teens.  Maria remarried about 5 years later.  According to my clients, Maria’s second marriage started off well but soon deteriorated.  Maria couldn’t endure her unhappy marriage anymore and she filed for divorce 3 years after her wedding.

The divorce process took a while in the Family Court because the husband and his lawyer fought every issue and dragged the matter on. It happens….!  My clients told me that they believed the Family Court proceedings definitely affected their mother’s health.  Maria was often too exhausted to do anything or go anywhere.

Finally, Maria’s divorce was issued and she was ‘free of her ex’.  However, a couple of months later, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She died six months later.  Maria never updated her Will after her divorce.  She thought that since she got divorced, her husband would naturally be excluded from getting any of her estate and everything would go to her 3 children according to the terms of her Will.

WRONG!

According to legislation, the effect of Maria’s divorce meant that she died ‘intestate’.  Hence, Maria died without a Will.  Therefore, Joe, Emily and Alex did not get Maria’s estate as Maria stated in her Will.  Rather, Maria’s estate was distributed to Joe, Emily and Alex according to the set percentages as stated in legislation.

Joe, Emily and Alex eventually ended up fighting because, according to Maria’s Will, Emily was not to get an equal share of Maria’s estate.  When Maria was alive, she gave Emily $30,000 for a deposit on a unit.  Joe and Alex argued that Emily should get $30,000 less of the estate.  The siblings spent considerable legal fees arguing over the issue.   However, legislation decided otherwise and Emily was entitled to an equal share of the estate.

Maria’s children suffered the most in the whole situation.  First they lost their mother and then they ended up losing their close-knit sibling relationship.

Don’t wait until your divorce is over to get a new Will

The message is – if you are in the process of getting divorced, don’t wait until your divorce is finalised before getting a new Will.  Your divorce could take years to settle and a tragedy could occur during that time.  Trust me – it happens!

Had Maria made a legally drafted new Will during her divorce proceedings, her Will would have valid after her divorce and she would not have died intestate.  And her wishes would have been carried out and, Joe, Emily and Alex would still be close siblings.

A lawyer that specializes in Wills and Estate Planning is trained to prepare a particular Will for you so that your Will shall be valid after your divorce.

PS.  If your Family Lawyer is really on your side, he/she would also advise you to update your Will now because he/she knows the effect on your Family Court matter if you die before the Family Court proceedings are finalised. Trust me!

If you want to make sure that you have ticked all the boxes since your divorce and you can really move on with your ‘new normal’, give us a call.