Three surprising ways divorce can affect your will


Did you know that January 6 was World Divorce Day?

Going through a divorce? Remember to update your will as well.

When you are going through a divorce and feeling emotionally fragile, it’s hard enough to focus on the practical aspects of child care and division of assets. Your will might be the furthest thing from your mind. However, as this article from the Phoenix Sun illustrates, it’s vitally important to update your will within three months. Read on…

It’s a New Year, and a new you.  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.  The 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 lapses without you having updated 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,” said Alex Simeonides, the CEO of an Umhlanga-based financial consultant agency. Rather review your will to make sure it reflects the changes in your personal life, he noted.

Your will should reflect your new wishes:

It’s hard to believe that you can feel so differently about the person you once shared your life with.   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,” stated Simeonides.

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

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.

Reprinted from the Phoenix Sun 2020-01-14 with thanks.

Let Cape Town Divorce Lawyers help

A good divorce lawyer will include this in the package of support you receive, but it’s wise to put it on your own to-do list so you remember. If you don’t have a will, now is the time to draw one up. It is the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out after your death, which hopefully will be a long time in the future. Because life changes, wills need to be updated from time to time to reflect changed circumstances, such as divorce. For more information, Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email to discuss your case in confidence.

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The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.

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