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:
- If the divorce decree names the former spouse as a beneficiary
- The individual adds the divorced spouse as a beneficiary to the policy after the divorce
- 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 .
One the most complicate and transparent ways an individual may defraud a spouse during a marriage is with the use of a trust. A trust is an entity that separates equitable and legal title of all property or money placed within it. Prior to, during, or after marriage, a spouse may create a trust and name the children of the marriage or others, as the beneficiaries. The spouse then may start siphoning community property and separate property into the trust removing the property from the community. This is a tactic commonly practiced when a spouse has failed to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
Circumstances like this happen in High Asset Divorces because a trust may be used to protect properties from the other spouse. Attack the trust as a party of the case and request an accounting. It takes an experienced lawyer to understand which trusts can be attacked and which trusts are impenetrable.
Trust busting consists of complex and arduous litigation depending on the circumstances. The circumstances of a trust are important in divorce cases. Here are a few questions you should ponder when assessing any trusts during a divorce:
- Determine when the trust was created;
- Determine if the trust is revocable trust or irrevocable trust ;
- Determine who the beneficiary of the trust is;
- Determine who the trustee of the trust is;
- Determine who the settlor of the trust is;
- Determine the type of property or money that is placed within the trust; and
- Determine when the property or money was placed in the trust.
These are just a few inquiries you should make prior to meeting with your lawyer. It will save you time and money. Depending on the answers to the seven inquires stated above, an experienced lawyer may be able to bust the trust opening the property and monies for the final hearing in a divorce case. There are many defenses and unsettled law in connection with trust busting and an experienced attorney must be sought.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm P.C.