Of course divorce is a hugely emotional, difficult time. The heart wrenching events leading to the decision to file for divorce are excruciatingly difficult, especially if there are children involved. So then you, or maybe your spouse, files for dissolution of the marriage, and figuring out who gets what and what the parenting schedule will be for the children becomes the focus.
Don’t forget, though, that when times weren’t so rocky, you may have done estate planning, providing that in your Will or a Community Property Agreement you left everything to your spouse.
The fact that you are now in the middle of a dissolution does not revoke those estate planning documents. Unless the terms of the estate planning documents themselves revoke the Will or
Community Property Agreement, you will need to take affirmative steps to change your Will and other estate planning documents.
For example, the Power of Attorney in which you appointed your spouse to act on your behalf is not automatically revoked when your spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, unless that is specifically provided in the Power of Attorney.
Likewise with the Community Property Agreement, unless the agreement itself specifically provides that it is revoked if one of you files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, even though you are in the throes of a contentious dissolution, if you die and your spouse survives the Community Property Agreement is still in effect and all community property will pass to your surviving spouse.
Your Will operates the same way. As long as you are married, gifts to your spouse under your Will are unaffected. As soon as the dissolution is final, Washington statuses change that, but until it is final, spousal gifts are unaffected.
Also consider beneficiary designations that you may have made in your retirement or life insurance that you have through work or independently. It may be that you have designated that your spouse be the beneficiary, and this will be the prevailing beneficiary designation unless you make a change!
So, the moral to this difficult tale is: If you are involved in a dissolution of marriage or a legal separation, then bring all of your estate planning documents into your attorney’s office, along with a copy of this message, and talk with your attorney about making changes to your estate plan as part of the dissolution process.