What Happens to Your Will After a Divorce in Texas

A divorce can be grueling is transformed by law, probate, and insurance decisions made prior to divorce. It is important to know exactly what will happen to your will and life insurance if this misfortune happens to befall your family. The family unit is important and if it is fractured the question of what happens to “my will”, “my life insurance”, or “my trust” is a relevant and important one that needs to be answered.

If you are divorced from your spouse then your previous will may be in many aspects considered revoked automatically. Under the Texas Estate Code § 123.001 after a valid divorce, all provisions in a will, including all fiduciary appointments, shall be read as if the former spouse and each relative of the former spouse who is not a relative of the testator failed to survive the testator, unless the will expressly provides otherwise. The translation of this states: if you receive a valid divorce then your will is in many respects revoked and your spouse and stepchildren will receive nothing from the previous will. The one exception is if the will explicitly states that in case of divorce the previous spouse or children will still inherit. This revocation applies to fiduciary appointments as well. For instance if you have a trust and your spouse is the trustee, then she will be revoked from the trust in its entirety.

If you divorce your spouse, then your spouse’s beneficiary status pertaining to your life insurance will be automatically revoked. Texas Family Code § 9.301 states an automatic revocation upon divorce and lists three exceptions:

  1. If the divorce decree names the former spouse as a beneficiary
  2. The individual adds the divorced spouse as a beneficiary to the policy after the divorce
  3. The former spouse receives the life insurance as a “guardian” of the children

These are the exceptions for life insurance. If you decide to divorce your spouse unless further action is taken, the spouse will not benefit from your death regarding the life insurance.

Finally, the inheritance of a divorced spouse in reference to a trust depends on whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable. If you have set up a Revocable Trust then after the divorce your prior spouse will automatically lose his/her beneficiary status within the trust. On the other hand, if you set up an Irrevocable Trust then regardless of a divorce the prior spouse will still inherit and be considered a valid beneficiary. A divorce will have no effect on an Irrevocable Trust. If you decide to create an irrevocable trust, be sure to understand that your spouse will inherit the assets in the trust even after a divorce.

In a Texas divorce, the law protects you from unchecked gifts to your prior spouse and stepchildren with regard to your will, life-insurance, and revocable trusts. The prior spouse will not take from these unless one of the few exceptions apply. Divorces are riddled with complexities and it is prudent to seek advice from an experienced Texas divorce attorney during these proceedings to ensure that the divorced spouse is removed completely from your will and does not reserve an argument to acquire your assets post-divorce .

Mediation : Alternative Dispute Resolution

“Mediation” is a process to aid parties in finding a fair and equitable settlement of disputes without unnecessary court intervention. Most Texas district and county courts require pretrial mediation for a variety of cases in order to help the parties resolve their problems while avoiding extensive court procedures and expenses

Mediation is a process in which the parties, under the guidance of a Mediator, agree upon a legally binding settlement the disputes in issue without a trial. Meditation can take many forms and the process may produce creative solutions without the direct rulings of the court. Courts usually encourage the opposing lawyers to first mediate a dispute and if no progress is made then continue the normal judicial process.

The Mediator that helps bring both sides to an agreement usually is a lawyer, ex-judge, or other specialist who has experience or expert training in the specific areas related to the dispute. A Mediator fees may range anywhere from $160-$500 dollars an hour depending on the case and the complexity of the issues in dispute. Mediators attempt to work with each side to find a reasonable middle ground to which a fair agreement can be structured.

An experienced lawyer is a valuable tool to advance favorable terms of any agreement during a mediation. During a mediation a Mediator will likely place the parties into separate “Caucus” areas, splitting the parties into different rooms to negotiate individually with each party to understand the positions and interests. Once the Mediator has talked to each party he will attempt to discover a common grounds that will fairly or smoothly serve both parties’ interests. If an agreement is reached that neither side is overly happy about, it is often likely that a reasonable compromise has been reached.

The important point of a mediation is to express your concerns and attempt to reach a compromise that is mutually acceptable, smart and fair to both sides. Many courts support this type of dispute resolution because it frees up the courts dockets and allow the parties to consider compromise first without involving the courts. Mediation maybe a cost saver, as the dollars you spend on an attorney for trial can be reduced significantly if a compromise is reached.

Make sure you have an attorney who is experienced in the Mediation process and knows how to craft a smart, fair deal which will result in significant cost savings.

Have You Been Hacked by Your Ex? Know Your Rights in Texas!

As technology continues to change our lives at a rapid pace, it’s easy to forget that so much of our most valuable and private information now hides in our computers, in our email accounts, phones, text messages iPads, and other devices. When you love someone, it may seem only natural and convenient to share your various passwords and account information or to leave your devices unprotected. However, when relationships become conflicted breakups, these security lapses can result in humiliating disasters with far-reaching consequences. As lawmakers try to keep up to help protect our information, it is more important than ever before to be aware of what is legal, what isn’t legal, and what steps you need to take in order to protect yourself from someone accessing your information for malicious purposes.

What are my online privacy rights?

Putting it bluntly, when you’re in a marriage or live-in relationship, you don’t have many. Texas did recently pass a bill (CSHB 896) to help define what a cyber-crime actually is, but it mostly doesn’t apply in this arena. Specifically, the law says a person commits an offense if they knowingly access a computer, network or system “with the intent to defraud or harm another or alter, damage, or delete property.” Although this language sounds reassuring, it is important to note that spouses are often given extraordinary leeway by courts with regards to what many would consider a reasonable invasion of privacy. In many instance, your spouse may still access anything in your computer, emails, or phone, and potentially even use that as evidence in any court proceedings. There are many examples of spouses aggressively attempting to do exactly that and successfully leveraging whatever they find to obtain custody, favorable settlements, or other advantages.

So what can I do?

If you are going through a divorce or break up,

  1. Immediately tell your spouse/ex that they DO NOT have permission to access any of your accounts, and document the message. You do have a right to privacy. If your spouse (Ex) continues to try to access your information, then they are potentially committing a criminal offense, and at the very least, any information they discover after written notice may not be admissible in court.
  2. CHANGE ALL OF YOUR PASSWORDS, and do it right away. Most of the popular online email services (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) actually track your internet usage and display that information to anyone with your password who knows where to look. What about iCloud / Apple? If your spouse has your password, they can actually log in to iMessage from anywhere, see all of your past texts and read any texts that you receive in real time. Depending on your device settings, they may even be able to track your actual location. Change your passwords, and…
  3. If you can, enable two-step verification on all accounts which offer it. This extra step will guarantee that nobody can access your account without your knowledge and permission.

In short, there is still a lot of gray area as our legal system struggles to keep up with technology. The smartest thing you can do is make sure you protect your accounts, stay away from your spouse’s, and exercise caution in anything you do online or on your phone.