• The Effects of Divorce on a Will
  • November 8, 2016
  • Law Firm: Hopkins Huebner P.C. - Des Moines Office
  • Divorces can impact wills. If an individual signs a will and is subsequently divorced, the divorce can automatically revoke certain provisions of the individual's will.

    An individual who signs a will is known as a "testator." Not surprisingly, after a divorce, the testator's former spouse is automatically removed from the will by Iowa law. Specifically, all provisions in favor of the testator's former spouse, such as disposition, appointments of property, and nominations to serve in any fiduciary or representative capacity, are revoked immediately upon the divorce, unless the will provides otherwise.

    What may come as a surprise to some people, however, is that not only is the former spouse removed, but so is every relative of the former spouse. In this context, "relative of the formative spouse" means a person who is related to the former spouse by blood, adoption, or affinity. As a result, any child of the former spouse who was named in the testator's will is automatically removed upon the divorce. Even a friend of the former couple who is related in some way to the former spouse would be removed from the will upon the divorce.

    However, these automatic removals will not occur if the will provides otherwise. For example, if a testator's will gave certain property to a step-child, and the will also provided that "this provision shall remain effective despite any divorce or separation that may occur in the future," then the provision in favor of the step-child would not be revoked upon the divorce.

    If you or someone you know signed a will and was subsequently divorced, it is a good idea to review the will. With the changed circumstances, the will may or may not still accomplish the goals of the testator. Additionally, if you or someone you know is named in a will which was signed prior to a divorce, it is a good idea to have a discussion with the testator to ensure his or her desires are aligned with what the will now provides. Addressing potential issues can now prevent confusion in the future.