Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario from Steve Shane – 12.6.13

Question:  My spouse and I intend to divorce, but I still wish to leave him a portion of my estate.  Upon my death, how do I ensure my ex-spouse will receive the bequest? Answer:  When spouses divorce (or separate with the intent to end the marriage with divorce), it is important to change the estate planning documents to be sure it reflects the intent of the spouse.  Typically the intent (and what I have written about in prior emails) is to disinherit the spouse who you intend to divorce. In the case of inheritance by Will, Maryland provides relief to those spouses who might not be as diligent in updating his or her estate planning documents, through means of a statute which essentially says that, unless there is a contrary intent expressed in the Will, a divorce will revoke dispositive provisions in a Will related to that (ex) spouse. As such, if your intention really is to leave property to your ex-spouse, your Will should be very clear to your intention or a challenge may result in that ex-spouse losing to another heir. Of course a beneficiary designation which names your (ex) spouse should hold up to a challenge regardless since that is property outside of the estate.  In fact, life insurance or retirement plan accounts are assets that unfortunately sometimes get overlooked when spouses separate resulting in unintended consequences. Comment:  To avoid a challenge, it can’t hurt for a client to write a letter explaining her intention, keeping the letter with her other estate planning documentation. Steven E. Shane Principal Offit│Kurman Attorneys At Law 301.575.0313 Washington 410.218.9339 Mobile 301.575.0335 Facsimile Please note the above material discussed is intended to provide only general information. Do not, under any circumstances, solely rely on this information as legal advice. Legal matters are often complicated. For assistance with your specific legal problem or inquiry please contact me directly.