Comprehensive Estate Planning And Probate Advocacy

Do I need to remove an ex-spouse from my will after divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2023 | Estate Planning


Having an estate plan is a protective measure for a person and their family. In Pennsylvania, it is a key aspect of ensuring property goes where a person—the testator—wants it to go. However, just because a person crafted a will does not mean it should remain the same for the duration.

It is wise to periodically look at the will and update it. Perhaps a person experienced a sudden increase in their net worth. They could have had more children or grandchildren. Or they might have gotten a divorce.

According to state law, there is “modification by circumstances.” This means that the will automatically updates even if the testator does not change it themselves. This could be perfectly acceptable for some people. Others might not want it to change. Having comprehensive assistance can ensure the document is as the person wants it even after the life change has occurred.

Understanding modification by circumstances in estate planning

When a person creates a will, their spouse is usually mentioned as receiving property. If they get divorced after the will has been executed, state law makes any provisions related to the spouse ineffective. In other words, they will be automatically removed if there is a divorce or a pending divorce at the time of their death.

In some cases, that is what the testator wants. In others—perhaps after a long marriage or one in which they are parting on good terms—they do not want to remove the former spouse. It is imperative for a person to make clear what they want in their will.

Other situations where this is relevant is if a person gets married after making a will. The new spouse will be entitled to receive a portion of the testator’s property even if they were not named in the will. It will be viewed as if they died intestate. This too can be adjusted based on what the testator wants. For example, the will could say that it was made as the couple was preparing to marry and the spouse will get more than they would in an intestate case.

Knowing the law for estate planning requires knowledgeable assistance

Just because a person has made an estate plan does not automatically mean that it will never need to be updated. Divorce, marriage, having a child and other life events will warrant a reassessment of the document.

Contacting professionals who have more than 40 years of experience in estate planning matters can give guidance. In these cases, those who are wondering what happens if they are planning to get married or divorced should have qualified, caring and friendly advice about what to do.