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Divorce and Wills in California

Getting divorced (but not merely separated) automatically changes your will. It does NOT revoke your will in it’s entirety though. It just takes out your ex-spouse. However, what if your ex-spouse’s kids are the back up beneficiaries… then what?  Yes, they would take under your will.  The bottom line is you should review your estate plan immediately upon divorce (if not before filing for divorce).  Here is the entire California probate code section on this point.  Contact me with questions.  -John

California Probate Code Section 6122

(a) Unless the will expressly provides otherwise, if after executing a will the testator’s marriage is dissolved or annulled, the dissolution or annulment revokes all of the following: (1) Any disposition or appointment of property made by the will to the former spouse. (2) Any provision of the will conferring a general or special power of appointment on the former spouse. (3) Any provision of the will nominating the former spouse as executor, trustee, conservator, or guardian. (b) If any disposition or other provision of a will is revoked solely by this section, it is revived by the testator’s remarriage to the former spouse. (c) In case of revocation by dissolution or annulment: (1) Property prevented from passing to a former spouse because of the revocation passes as if the former spouse failed to survive the testator. (2) Other provisions of the will conferring some power or office on the former spouse shall be interpreted as if the former spouse failed to survive the testator. (d) For purposes of this section, dissolution or annulment means any dissolution or annulment which would exclude the spouse as a surviving spouse within the meaning of Section 78. A decree of legal separation which does not terminate the status of husband and wife is not a dissolution for purposes of this section. (e) Except as provided in Section 6122.1, no change of circumstances other than as described in this section revokes a will. (f) Subdivisions (a) to (d), inclusive, do not apply to any case where the final judgment of dissolution or annulment of marriage occurs before January 1, 1985. That case is governed by the law in effect prior to January 1, 1985.

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10.0John Bernard Palley
Wealth Counsel Member
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