How Does Divorce Affect the Rights of Stepchildren Who Are Named In A Will?

I have written before that making a will is not a something you do just once in your life. Your will is something that should change as your life does. Otherwise it can become an outdated document that doesn’t accomplish your goals and objectives.

One life change that will trigger a need to update your will is divorce. But what happens if you divorce and die before you’ve had a chance to change your will? Do the stepchildren you’ve named in your will get the property you previously willed to them when you were still married to their mother or father?

In Texas, the answer is no. Effective September 1, 2007, the Texas statutes provide that if, after making a will, the testator’s marriage is dissolved, either by divorce, annulment or a declaration that the marriage is void, all the provisions in the will, including all fiduciary appointments, shall be read as if the former spouse, and each relative of the former spouse who is not also a relative of the testator failed to survive the testator, unless the will expressly provides otherwise.

So if you previously signed a will that gave all left your former spouse’s children part of your estate, but then divorced, those you named as contingent beneficiaries would take under the will instead.

Despite this rule, it is important that you update your will after your divorce to reflect your current wishes. That way you can be certain that there is no confusion about how your assets should be distributed when you die.

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