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How Divorce Can Affect Your Estate Plans

June 30, 2023

Divorce is one of the most stressful ordeals an average person can experience, and not only due to the emotional toll it takes. It is well-known that divorce can also wreak havoc on the former spouses’ finances, with property division, alimony, and child support obligations all potentially playing a role. However, divorce can also have consequences for estate plans, particularly for those who executed their estate planning documents after they were married. If you are facing a divorce, a Branson estate planning lawyer can help you incorporate any necessary changes into your estate plan. 


Most Branson estate planning lawyers recommend executing or updating your will when you get married to take into account the change in circumstances. The same advice holds true when you get divorced. But even if you forget to do so, Missouri law provides a remedy — if, after executing a will, the testator divorces, all provisions in favor of the testator’s former spouse are revoked, and the former spouse is treated as if they had died at the time of divorce (RSMo § 474.420). 


If you use trusts as part of your estate plan — whether revocable trusts or irrevocable trusts — you should be aware of how divorce can impact them. Under Missouri law, if a settlor’s marriage is dissolved, any beneficial terms in favor of the settlor’s former spouse or any appointment of the former spouse as trustee is revoked as of the date of the divorce (RSMo § 456.1-112). However, because trust assets may be considered marital property, the court may order the spouses to agree that this provision does not apply. 

Non-Probate Transfers

Non-probate transfers are assets that transfer at death without the need for probate proceedings, such as transfer on death and payable on death designations and life insurance policies. Missouri law treats such transfers at divorce similarly to wills and trusts — i.e., a beneficiary designation in favor of a former spouse is revoked as of the date the owner’s marriage is dissolved (RSMo § 461.051). Again, there are caveats — this provision of law does not apply to certain non-probate transfers covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Power of Attorney 

It is not uncommon for spouses to grant each other power of attorney, which enables the spouse who holds such power to exercise a great deal of control over the other spouse’s finances and medical decisions. In the case of divorce, Missouri law again provides a remedy — power of attorney granted to a spouse is revoked upon the filing of a petition for divorce or annulment when the principal and the attorney in fact were married to each other at or subsequent to the time the power of attorney was created (RSMo 404.717). 

Speak to a Branson Estate Planning Lawyer for More Information 

If you are facing a divorce and would like to revisit your estate plans — whether to remove your spouse as a beneficiary or to avoid Missouri’s default revocation-upon-divorce rules — please contact a Branson estate planning lawyer at LifeGen Law Group by calling 417-823-9898 or using our online contact form.