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Divorce, wills and Colorado law

Divorce decrees do more than legally end marriages. They can drastically change the outcome of wills. Jefferson residents who don’t revise their wills and estate plans after divorce could have their estate distributed in ways they do not want.

According to the Colorado General Assembly, the designation of a spouse as a beneficiary or trustee in estate planning is automatically revoked once a divorce has been granted by the courts. This includes powers of attorney, wills and trusts. Property that was originally designated to pass to a former spouse in a will automatically passes to the alternate beneficiary. If there is no alternate beneficiary or a residual one, then the property is eligible for claim by the deceased’s closest living relatives.

The American Bar Association states that former spouses should immediately amend their estate plans to ensure the plans reflect their wishes about who should inherit their property. Steps one should take when updating their estate plans include revoking the old will. This is easily done by shredding or tearing it up and creating a new one.

Both parties should designate new beneficiaries and alternate beneficiaries to ensure the proper distribution of their property and assets according to their wishes. This is a good time to choose new beneficiaries for any existing life insurance policies and retirement accounts as well. However, it is possible for an ex-spouse to still inherit property. Per Colorado law, they could do so through a court order or if the ex-spouse convinced the other to create a new will that is dated after the divorce agreement is final. An ex-spouse also may still be able to claim some inheritance from a pension plan.

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