Divorcing couples in Arkansas can face tough times after the divorce becomes final. If a divorced couple fails to separate their estate plans or update financial arrangements in a timely manner, family members may be battling with ex-spouses or their former in-laws to attain certain assets and death benefits. Under the law, after death, property may automatically go to a spouse or to his or her family, if certain beneficiary designations are not updated.
A similar case has recently come into the spotlight, in which a woman who divorced her husband in 2007 and died five years later had executed a will in 1996 that provided for a house to pass to her husband after death. She named her then father-in-law as the second beneficiary in the will. The divorce automatically eliminated her husband as a beneficiarym but now her family is having a tough time claiming ownership of the house, because legally, it was willed to her former spouse’s father.
However, the woman’s family claims that after her divorce, the woman prepared a new will that changed beneficiaries; nonetheless, family members have not been able to locate that will to use as evidence. The state court hearing the family’s appeal found in favor of the ex-husband’s father and upheld the 1996 will. The woman’s family has decided not to give up on the case and intends to take their case to the state’s highest court.
According to the family’s lawyer, this case provides a very interesting and important lesson for all divorcing couples. They should make sure they have separated all joint assets in order to steer clear of future legal issues. It is imperative that all loopholes are closed, including property division, and that beneficiaries have copies of the most current will before an unexpected death occurs. The most important point is that a will should clearly state the name of any intended beneficiaries and be updated after a divorce occurs. Arkansas residents who may be faced with similar situations after the end of a marriage should rely on astute and timely legal advice in order to avoid these types of property disputes.
Source: MarketWatch, “Just divorced? Don’t forget to separate your estate plans,” Liz Moyer, Feb. 23, 2015