Effect of Divorce on Wills

Effect of Divorce on Wills​

What happens to a will or trust if there is a divorce, dissolution of marriage, or legal separation? Is the whole document void if the ex-spouse is still in the will or trust? Are only parts of the document void? Does the whole document stay the same?

In Colorado, the two most common ways to end a marriage are a dissolution of marriage or a legal separation. A dissolution of marriage is a clean break with no other complications. A legal separation happens for various reasons such as wanting to maintain health insurance, other benefits, or for personal/spiritual reasons.


If an ex-spouse is left on a will or trust after a dissolution of marriage or legal separation, a Colorado law automatically removes the ex-spouse from the document. This applies only if the document was created before the dissolution or legal separation. If someone wants to keep their ex-spouse on their will or trust, they should sign an amendment saying so, or sign a new document after the dissolution or legal separation.

The automatic removal also applies to relatives of the ex-spouse as long as they are not the same relatives of the person who died. For example, if an ex-mother-in-law is on the document she would be removed automatically. If a child is the deceased person’s and ex-spouse’s child, they would not be removed.

If assets such as a house, bank account, or vehicle are co-owned between separated people, this law automatically changes the nature of the asset from jointly owned to tenancy in common or 50/50 owned. This means that 50% would still go to the ex-spouse and 50% would go to the probate estate to be figured out by the estate attorney/representative.

To further complicate the matter, companies that hold financial accounts can create their own rules that say no matter if there is a dissolution or legal separation, the account still goes to the ex-spouse. Colorado law allows for companies like life insurance companies, annuities, or investment companies to make their own rules regarding these circumstances.

Commonly judges in divorce proceedings require life insurance policies or other insurance to cover the payment of child support or spousal support, however, these divorce judges often don’t understand the probate procedures of what happens if the account owner dies, and this law automatically removes an ex-spouse from the account.

If someone owes you child support, alimony (spousal support), or some similar financial obligation, it is very important to update all financial accounts, wills, or trusts after a separation.

Contact Rossi Law today for more information about divorce and estate planning.