Here is a guide to the legal effects of divorce on Wills, Trust instruments, and financial accounts in Texas.
Wills and Divorce in Texas. When a person’s marriage is dissolved by divorce, the former spouse cannot receive any payments, benefits or inherit property from that person’s will unless it expressly states otherwise. Not only is the former spouse not allowed to take any benefits or serve in a fiduciary role with regard to the estate, but neither can a relative of the former spouse do so, unless the relative is also a relative of the testator.
Trust Instruments and Divorce in Texas. A person can create a trust through provisions in a will. However, if that person’s marriage is dissolved by divorce, Texas law will operate as if the former spouse has disclaimed his or her interest in the trust. The divorce cancels the former spouse’s right to receive any property from the trust, to act as trustee, or to be appointed in any other fiduciary capacity. However, this rule applies only to trusts created in a will, and not to trusts created during one’s lifetime.
Divorce on P.O.D. and Multiple-party accounts. If a deceased individual has established a “pay on death”, multiple-party account, or any other beneficiary designation during a marriage that ends in divorce, the beneficiary designation of the former spouse, as well as of relatives of the former spouse who are not a relative of the decedent, are no longer effective.
Exceptions to the Rule. Some exceptions to the general rules occur under the following circumstances:
- The Court’s divorce decree so orders.
- Express terms in a trust instrument grant rights regardless of divorce.
- An express provision of a pre-nup or post-nup relates to the division of the marriage estate.
- The decedent reaffirms the survivorship agreement in writing.
- There are express provisions in joint trust documents.
- The former spouse is re-designated as the P.O.D. payee or beneficiary after a divorce.
This article brushes the surface of the many estate planning issues that can occur after a divorce in Texas. Be sure to review your estate planning documents yearly and seek the counsel of an attorney when there has been a major life event, such as marriage, birth, death, changes in investment accounts, property changes, or divorce.
Elaine Price practices in the areas of probate, heirship, and guardianship proceedings. Ms. Price is a graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law and holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Prarie View A&M. Elaine was formerly with the law office of Rhonda Hunter.