Can an Ex-Spouse Still Inherit under a Will?

Last Will & Testament near Reading GlassesIf you have recently divorced, or if you have a parent who has recently gone through a divorce, you and your family have gone through a difficult and emotional time. Most likely, you do not want to think about whether there are implications of the divorce that you have not fully considered. Even so, you should take the time to make certain that all your family’s assets are secure from claims of the ex-spouse, including assets covered by a will, as well as assets that may be separate from it.

Michigan Law Provides Limited Protection for Assets after Divorce

In Michigan, a specific section in the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) provides that a divorce effectively revokes any disposition of property made to a former spouse in a will (MCL 700.2807). However, the statutory provision only affects property given to the former spouse in the will. There are financial assets with beneficial interests that may not be automatically revoked by the divorce.

For 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) in particular, beneficiary designations supersede the provisions of a will. If a former spouse remains as the designated beneficiary of a retirement account, the proceeds could be distributed to the ex-spouse contrary to a decedent’s wishes.

Our probate litigation attorneys at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C, have unique and substantial experience in cases relating to claims by ex-spouses. We are tough on opponents and fight when necessary to make sure that your loved one’s wishes are carried out. Our successes include a Michigan Court Of Appeals case involving an ex-spouse’s attempt to claim her former husband’s 401(k) assets.

Especially because retirement accounts often make up a significant portion of an estate, it is very important that the beneficiary designations be reviewed after divorce. Even if property and financial interests are addressed in the divorce decree, steps should be taken to change the beneficiaries of any asset that includes the former spouse as a beneficiary. Those changes are best accomplished as part of a new or revised estate plan, since those assets should be included as part of the plan.

Updating Your Estate Plan after a Divorce

There are a number of major life events that trigger the necessity to update your estate plan. Divorce is one of the most important.

Relying on the limited protection against ex-spouse claims offered by state law is not a safe option. Every year, our Michigan probate courts decide cases brought by ex-spouses or by families of a decedent that involve the former spouse claiming the right to a decedent’s assets. Updating your estate plan after a divorce is the best way to minimize the risk of having a court decide who has the right to your financial assets.

Revising your estate plan after divorce should include creating an inventory of all financial assets and instruments. Making necessary beneficiary revisions to those documents as part of your estate plan will ensure that your family is protected from future claims by your ex-spouse.

If you are the adult child of someone who has recently divorced, your parent has gone through a very stressful, demanding time and may not be considering all the implications of the divorce. You should offer to help your parent prepare an inventory of financial assets and accounts, then help make necessary arrangements to update your parent’s estate plan and any related legal documents. Your concern and support are especially important if your parent is aging.

Our Michigan Attorneys Are Here to Help

BRMM is a full-service law firm. Our family law, estate planning, and probate litigation attorneys provide a full range of legal services and will answer all your questions. If you have recently gone through a divorce or are contemplating one, or if your elder parent has divorced, we will make sure that your family’s assets are protected and that they ultimately benefit your loved ones as you intend.

We take great pride in being compassionate and understanding of our clients’ wishes and needs. We will put our substantial experience in all aspects of divorce, estate planning, and probate litigation to work for you and your family.

We are located in Troy, Michigan, and serve clients throughout the Tri County and Detroit area, as well as in other parts of Michigan. We also represent clients from other states with an interest in a Michigan estate. What our clients say about us is proof of our commitment to achieving the highest levels of legal and client service.

Call us at 248.641.7070 or complete our online form to set up your free consultation.