With few exceptions, upon entry of a final judgment of dissolution or annulment, any provision of a will that “affects” a former spouse is void under section 732.507(2), Florida Statutes. After the dissolution, divorce, or annulment, the will 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. 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)).
The court in Carroll v. Israelson applied the 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.
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, by voiding upon entry of a final judgment of dissolution or annulment any provision of a will a married person made that “affects” a former spouse. Read the verb “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. It won’t allow “post-death legal gymnastics to manipulate the issue of whether a will provision ‘affects’ the former spouse.”
- A specific post-divorce designation of a former spouse in a will or trust as an irrevocable beneficiary; and
- An obligation in a final judgment to make the former spouse an irrevocable beneficiary
By updating beneficiary designations in wills and other instruments upon divorce or annulment, parties may avoid leaving costly, acrimonious, drawn out litigation as part of their legacy.
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