Estate Planning After Divorce In Washington State

Posted: Oct 22, 2018

By: Washington State Estate Planning and Real Estate Lawyer Per E. Oscarsson

In the midst of divorce proceedings, the effect of those proceedings on existing estate planning documents and whether the estate planning documents should be replaced are probably not high on a person’s list of things to consider.  Under Washington law, a Will signed during marriage that gives property or powers to a spouse is revoked as to that spouse when the parties divorce, unless the Will expressly provides otherwise.  However, in Washington, the Will is not revoked as to relatives of that spouse who may be named in the Will.  Sometimes, a Will includes a bequest to a relative of the spouse.  There may be any number of reasons for the bequest.  However, the bequest to the spouse’s relative may or may not be the intent of the maker of the Will if the maker of the Will and the spouse divorce.

In Estate of Mower, 193 Wn.App. 706, review denied 186 Wn.2d 1031 (2016), the spouse’s brother and sister-in-law were named in the Will as contingent beneficiaries if the spouse died.  The maker of the Will died unexpectedly 16 days after the divorce decree was entered, without having changed his Will.  The court held that the Will was revoked as to the spouse and that the spouse’s brother and sister-in-law would take because the revocation was equivalent to the spouse dying before the maker of the Will, so that the contingency condition had been satisfied.

As with other significant life events, a divorce should prompt review of your estate planning documents to make sure they reflect your wishes.  Most estate planning documents are not set in stone and a change may be appropriate.  The estate planning attorneys at Beresford Booth PLLC can assist.  Please call us at 425-776-4100.

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