People in Seattle are encouraged to see to their estate planning early on in their adult lives, and then make modifications to those plans as their circumstances change. Yet as one approaches their senior years, they might think that any major changes that would necessitate updating their estates have already occurred. One never knows, however, what life may bring; a significant life event such as a divorce may still occur (indeed, information shared by Forbes Magazine shows that while the overall divorce rate in the U.S. has declined in recent years, the number of divorces among those over 50 is on the rise).
This brings up the issue of needing to update a will after a divorce. Many might reasonably fear that if they fail to do so, their ex-spouse might inadvertently inherit all of their assets. Yet that is not the case. Washington state law views as divorce as effectively invalidating any provisions in one’s will that stipulate any property disbursements or powers of appointments to their ex-spouse. From a legal perspective, it would be as though the ex-spouse had preceded them in death.
There is some grey area in this regard, however. If one’s will contains language implying that their spouse should still be among their beneficiaries even if they divorce, the court will honor those stipulations. There has also been confusion regarding whether any provisions related to relatives of one’s spouse should continue to be valid (e.g. one leaving assets to their in-laws or naming their spouse’s siblings to an office in their estate). Washington state courts have ruled in the past that such stipulations (in the absence of language indicating a decedent wanted all ties with their ex-spouse to end) are still recognized.