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Understanding How Divorce Impacts Your Estate Plan

When you divorce in Washington state, you can expect to make a lot of personal and financial changes. Many of them will involve any estate plan that you have in place. In this blog, we’ll explain how divorce affects common estate planning tools and what steps you can take to ensure that they reflect your new circumstances.


Under Washington law, all provisions in your will made in favor of your former spouse are revoked automatically. There’s a catch, however: this exclusion only takes effect after the divorce is granted. In Washington, there is a mandatory waiting period of 90 days before a divorce can be finalized, although it can take a lot longer. If you die suddenly during the proceedings, your spouse can inherit because you are technically still married.

So what can you do? You can -and should- draw up a new will as soon as possible, but bear in mind that if you die while legally married, your spouse can make a claim for their share of your estate unless they voluntarily waive these rights in a separation agreement. A Seattle divorce lawyer can advise you on the best way to preserve your estate for your children and other chosen beneficiaries.


If you have a living or revocable trust, divorce will invalidate any provisions for your former spouse. With irrevocable trusts, it’s different. If you named your former spouse as a beneficiary, that provision could remain valid even after divorce, so speak with your attorney about making the appropriate changes.

Powers of Attorney

Washington law automatically revokes any power of attorney your spouse may hold as soon as you file for divorce. This measure is intended to prevent them from getting control of your assets after the marriage breaks down. You can appoint a friend or family member you trust to manage these responsibilities should the need ever arise.

Beneficiary Designations

When your divorce case is pending, the court will issue a restraining order (in many counties) preventing you from making beneficiary changes on any annuities, retirement plans, or life insurance policies you hold. Afterward, your former spouse will automatically be removed from your life insurance and any retirement accounts governed by state law, such as a traditional IRA. Retirement accounts governed by the federal ERISA, such as a 401(k), need to have their beneficiary designations changed manually.

Do You Have More Questions About Divorce and Estate Planning?

If you are preparing to divorce and are concerned about the impact on your estate plan, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Mackenzie Sorich, PLLC can help. We have years of experience in both estate planning and family law and will provide appropriate advice for your circumstances. Schedule an appointment today by calling 206-336-9195 or contacting us online.

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