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How Does My Divorce Change My Washington Estate Plan?


Divorce is a time of transition. Aside from the emotional impact, ending a marriage requires sorting out a number of complex legal and financial issues. Even under the most amicable of circumstances, this process is often overwhelming.

One thing many Spokane Valley residents fail to consider when they are in the midst of a divorce is changing their estate plan. To some extent this is understandable. After all, who wants to think about their will at a time like this? But it is important to understand how divorce affects your existing plan, and why it should prompt you to create a new estate plan as soon as possible.

Washington’s “Revocation Upon Divorce” Laws

Washington law does anticipate situations where a divorced person might forget to change their will. RCW 11.12.051 provides that if after making a will, the testator’s marriage (or domestic partnership) is dissolved or otherwise terminated by law, any provisions in that will regarding the former spouse or domestic partner are revoked.

Here is a simple hypothetical example. Jack and Sarah married in 2002. Jack signed a will in 2012 naming Sarah the executor and sole beneficiary of his estate. Jack and Sarah subsequently divorced in 2022. Jack died in 2024, however, without ever updating or revising his 2012 will.

In this scenario, RCW 11.12.051 revokes those provisions of Jack’s will naming Sarah as executor and sole beneficiary. It does not revoke any other part of the will. Essentially, the law directs the probate court to administer the will as if Sarah had pre-deceased Jack.

But what about non-probate assets, such as those held in a revocable living trust? RCW 11.07.010 covers those assets. And it also provides that any provision of a trust or other document transferring a non-probate asset with respect to a former spouse or domestic partner is revoked.

There are some important caveats here. First, Washington’s automatic revocation laws do not apply when the will (or non-probate transfer) expressly provides otherwise. Nor does it overrule any provision of a divorce settlement governing the disposition of probate or non-probate assets. And there is nothing to prevent someone from making a new will or trust providing for their ex. The statutes described above only cover wills made prior to the divorce or termination of the relationship.

One final note: Washington law does not automatically revoke any gift made by will to the family members of an ex-spouse. The Washington Court of Appeals addressed this situation in a 2016 case, In re Estate of Mower. There, the Court held that the decedent’s divorce did not revoke a contingent gift to his ex-wife’s brother and his spouse.

Contact Moulton Law Offices Today

Divorce and other major life events are often a good time to sit down and reconsider your estate plan moving forward. Our Spokane estate planning attorneys are happy to answer any questions you might have about this process. Contact Moulton Law Offices, P.S., today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout the Spokane Valley, Kennewick, and Yakima area.



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