Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, December 13, 2013

Maryland High Court Holds Ex-Spouses Do Not Automatically Inherit

ExThe following is a very common scenario: a person writes a will and selects their spouse are the beneficiary, divorces their spouse, and does not make changes to their will or designated beneficiary forms. It is difficult for attorneys to prevent former spouses from collecting from awards resulting from beneficiary designation form unless the deceased made changes to the form before his or her death.

However, In Maryland, the law provides "non-diligent" former spouses some protection. The highest court ruled that revoking a gift to a former spouse when inheriting through a will is "...effective upon the occurrence of the triggering factor, the subsequent divorce,..., unless there is ‘provided in’ the will or the [divorce] decree a statement to the contrary, that the decedent intended the bequest even though they were divorced.” The court came to this conclusion by interpreting Maryland's legislatures intent to save divorced spouses from unintended bequests. However, this ruling does not help those who have not finalized their divorce.

See Helen Smith, "Magic" Words To Ensure Ex-Spouse Remains in Will, Martindale, Nov. 29, 2013. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.


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