Automatic Revocation of Will Provisions that Affect an Ex-Spouse

Spouses should know Florida Statutes automatically revokes certain will provisions upon a final judgment of dissolution or annulment.  Florida’s automatic revocation on divorce statute section 732.507(2), Florida Statutes may void provisions of a will that “affect” a former spouse. After the dissolution, divorce, or annulment, wills must be administered and construed as if the former spouse had died at the time of the dissolution, divorce, or annulment, unless the will or the dissolution or divorce judgment expressly provides otherwise.

Invalidated Will Provisions – Carroll v. Israelson

The court in Carroll v. Israelson applied the automatic revocation on divorce statute to invalidate provisions of a will establishing trusts upon the decedent’s death to benefit his former wife’s relatives, because such provisions “affected” her. See Carroll v. Israelson, 169 So. 3d 239 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) (followed in Galazka v. Estate of Perkins, 184 So. 3d 635 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016)).

Even when attorneys advise clients to update their estate plans, the court observed, people resist thinking about their own mortality and procrastinate post-divorce estate planning.

But section 732.507(2), Florida Statutes protects them.  It voids on entry of a final judgment of dissolution or annulment any provision of a will a married person made that “affects” a former spouse.  Read “affects” broadly, as the Carroll court did.  For a provision to “affect” a former spouse, the provision need not have a direct financial benefit on the former spouse. The statute does not revoke provisions of a will executed by a single person; it applies only when the marriage predates the will. In Gordon v. Fishman, 253 So. 3d 1218 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018), a man did not marry his fiancée he designated in his will as beneficiary until 15 months after he signed it. Their later divorce did not invalidate the beneficiary designation under 732.507(2), Florida Statutes.

Carroll held the date of dissolution or annulment triggers the statute.  The statute won’t allow “post-death legal gymnastics to manipulate the issue of whether a will provision ‘affects’ the former spouse.”

Exceptions to Automatic Revocation of Designations

Exceptions to automatic revocation include:

By updating beneficiary designations in wills and other instruments upon divorce or annulment, parties may avoid leaving their survivors costly, acrimonious, drawn out litigation.

⇒ Next Section: Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreements: Insurance Policies and Accounts – Beneficiary Designations – Section 732.703

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