What happens to your beneficiary designations of your spouse when you divorce? With few exceptions, when you divorce in Florida, provisions of your will that “affect” your ex are void, under section 732.507(2), Florida Statutes. Effective July 1, 2021, it doesn’t matter if the marriage occurred before or after you signed your will.
Will Provisions that “Affect” an Ex-Spouse
As amended effective July 1, 2021 (Laws of Florida, 2021-183), Section 732.507(2) provides any provision of a will you made that “affects” your spouse is void when you divorce. Upon entry of a final judgment of dissolution of your marriage, for purposes of construing your will, Florida law treats your ex as having died then. Read more here.
What Does “Affect” Mean?
In 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 invalidated provisions of a will establishing trusts upon the decedent’s death. The trusts were for the benefit of his former wife’s relatives. The court concluded such provisions “affected” her, so were void once the parties divorced.
The court observed divorcing parties, even when their attorneys advise them to update their estate plans, resist thinking about their own mortality and procrastinate post-divorce estate planning.
But section 732.507(2), Florida Statutes protects them. The automatic revocation statute voids, upon entry of a final judgment of dissolution, any provision of a will that “affects” a former spouse. Read the verb “affects” broadly. That’s what the Carroll court did. For a provision to “affect” a former spouse, the provision does not need to have a direct financial benefit on the former spouse.
Carroll held the date of dissolution or annulment triggers the statute. It does not allow for “post-death legal gymnastics to manipulate the issue of whether a will provision ‘affects’ the former spouse.”
- A specific post-divorce designation in your will of your ex as an irrevocable beneficiary;
- An express statement in your will that section 732.507(2) will not invalidate a provision affecting your ex; or
- An obligation in a final judgment to make your former spouse an irrevocable beneficiary of assets.
Update your beneficiary designations in wills and other instruments when you divorce. Avoid leaving costly, acrimonious, drawn-out litigation as your legacy.