Do I Have to Change My Will After a Divorce?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

November 28, 2016

When you go through a divorce, you face a barrage of changes as you divide your bills and marital property. Even after your divorce is finalized, you continue to alter your life. You may move to a new house, buy a new car, or revert to using your maiden name. You may also need to remove your spouse as a beneficiary on your life insurance and retirement accounts. A relevant question is whether you have to change your will after a divorce.

Often when people draft a will, they generally sign it, put it somewhere secure, and promptly forget about it. The idea is that once it’s done, it doesn’t need to be revisited. However, after a major life change such as a divorce, you will likely want to look over your will and possibly make some changes to it.

People who get divorced often want to remove their former spouse from all aspects of their will. However, there are some cases where you might want to think twice about this total eradication. For example, if you have minor children with your former spouse and you plan to leave some or all of your assets to them, you may need to consider including your former spouse to hold onto their inheritance until they are adults.

Automatic Changes to Your Will

In North Carolina, divorcing your spouse does not revoke your will, but it does automatically remove your former spouse from any provisions “in favor” of them. The state also automatically removes your spouse as the executor of your will.
You are able to override these deletions by stipulating in your will that you want your former spouse to keep their inheritance, or by naming them as your executor. The terms you dictate in your will are what the court will adhere to when dividing your estate.

How Your Minor Children May Be Affected

Generally, minor children do not directly receive monetary inheritances. A minor child will be cared for by a guardian who is often made responsible for the child’s inheritance as well. If your former spouse is your child’s guardian, you may want to entrust them with overseeing the part of your estate left to your child.

If you want all of your possessions sold and you want your child to receive all the profits collected from the sale, you may want to have the funds deposited in a trust that your child can access when they reach the age of 18 (or older). You might want to appoint your former spouse as the person who sells your items, or as the trustee of your child’s trust, or both. Because your former spouse is also your child’s parent, they have a vested interest in your child’s future and may be the right person to carry out your wishes. If, however, you do not think your former spouse can be trusted with these duties, you have the right to appoint someone else.

Contact a North Carolina Divorce Lawyer

Revising your will following a divorce can be a confusing process, but it is necessary in order to ensure your wishes are carried out exactly as you want. When you need help drafting or changing your will, you should contact a divorce attorney who has decades of experience in the local family courts, such as Jonathan Breeden. Give Breeden Law Offices a call at (919) 661-4970 today.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden