Three surprising ways divorce can affect your will

Divorce.

This year, nearly one in five married South Africans will make the decision to start afresh and get a divorce.

As you put your life back together after a relationship split, don’t get distracted from updating your will to reflect your new status.

Update your will within three months or you may as well still be married to your ex

The emotional roller-coaster of divorce can take its toll. South African courts understand it takes time to get over a divorce, which is why the legal system gives you three months to update your will after you officially get divorced. If you pass away during this time, your ex may not have a claim on your estate. But if three months lapse without you updating your will, the courts will consider the wishes of the original will. If your ex was named, they will still benefit.

“That’s problematic if you don’t want your house, your car or your favourite piece of family jewellery to go to your ex. Rather review your will to make sure it reflects the changes in your personal life,” said CEO of Capital Legacy Alex Simeonides.

1. Your will should reflect your new wishes

Reaching a divorce agreement through the courts can be a difficult process that determines how your assets will be divided as well as child custody and visitation arrangements and whether either spouse pays alimony or financial support to the other. While your will can’t change a divorce settlement agreement, it can ensure the orderly management of your wealth when you aren’t around to exercise personal control.

“For instance, your ex-spouse could still have a claim on your children’s inheritance but with a proper estate plan, you can account for the cost of maintenance obligations and protect your children’s inheritance through a trust. This can be accommodated through reviewing and updating your will,” said Simeonides.

2. Moving on

Right now, you may just want to put the past behind you and move on with your life. Should you decide to remarry, you’ll need to update your will to make sure your new family, as well as your children from a former marriage, are taken care of should you pass away.

“Failing to update your will after a divorce may mean that your former spouse gets everything once you’ve passed on, to the disadvantage of your new partner. You can make special bequests in your updated will to meet your financial responsibilities to your former spouse, without impacting your new family.

“That will give you the space to move forward, positively.”

3. Looking ahead

The process of updating and reviewing your will need not be time-consuming, complex or costly and should be done every time you have a life-changing event – a birth, marriage, purchase or sale of a property and of course, divorce. Updating it every three to five years is essential to ensure your will remains current and reflects your wishes and financial circumstances. Put that on your 2020 to-do list as you embrace all the new year has to offer.

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