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How Does Divorce Affect Your Estate Plan?

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In Arizona law, as in most states, a divorce will void any beneficiary designation of your previous spouse in your Last Will and Testament. It does not void the Will, only the beneficiary designation, and it will have the effect of disqualifying the ex-spouse from serving in a fiduciary capacity, i.e., as executor of your estate, trustee of a trust, etc..

The Effect of Divorce on Fiduciary Designations

Divorce will impact fiduciary designations.  This means that you will need to update your estate plan to ensure that you have a someone to manage your estate in the event of your death or disability. In Arizona, divorce automatically revokes all fiduciary designations. This means that Arizona law revokes your ex-spouse's ability to act in a financial or medical care-taking role. However, you can work around that by simply updating your estate plan and re-appointing them as your fiduciary.

However, it is important to be cognizant of the immediate impact that divorce will have on such designations. A divorce will automatically revoke any Power of Attorney, Medical power of attorney, as well as any other fiduciary designations you previously granted to your ex-spouse during or before the marriage. It also automatically, and immediately, revokes any transfer on death designations, pay on death, and in-trust for designations on accounts. So, after your divorce is final, be sure to update these designations to ensure that nothing impacts your estate plan should something happen.

Make Sure to Update Insurance Beneficiary Designations

It is also important to look at any insurance beneficiary designations that you may have made. In Arizona, any designation of an ex-spouse as a beneficiary is automatically revoked. It is important to note that you need to either submit a new beneficiary as soon as possible after the divorce becomes final to ensure that the life insurance is not required to be made part of your estate. If you wish to keep your ex-spouse as a beneficiary, or are required to as part of the terms of the divorce, you will need to submit a new beneficiary designation listing the ex-spouse as the beneficiary. This is a fairly simple process that includes a few forms that must be filled out and sent back to the insurance company.

Divorce May Impact Your IRA Designation

For IRA's, profit sharing and the like, you will need to update the beneficiary on this as  A.R.S. Section 14-2804(A) does not control ERISA plans. This is a federal law issue rather than a state law issue, and therefore, the federal law applies and the beneficiary designation at the time of your death controls. So, if your ex-spouse is the designated beneficiary and you want to remove them as a beneficiary, you need to do so. You cannot rely on Arizona law to automatically disqualify the ex-spouse.

How Divorce May Impact Your Jointly Held Assets

Lastly, all property or accounts held with joint tenancy with right of survivorship are automatically converted to tenants in common. The difference is this, with joint tenancy with right of survivorship, when one spouse dies, the other automatically becomes the sole owner of the account or property. The effect of the divorce makes it a tenancy in common, where each party owns a proportionate share and they can distribute their shares of the property or money in the accounts to whomever they please.


In summary, divorce can significantly impact your estate plan, nullifying beneficiary designations and fiduciary roles for your ex-spouse. To ensure your wishes are honored and your assets are protected, it's crucial to update your estate plan promptly.

Consult with an estate planning attorney to review and revise your documents, including power of attorney, medical directives, insurance beneficiary designations, and IRA beneficiaries. Don't delay - take proactive steps to safeguard your estate and secure your future today!

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