Divorce & Estate Planning in Utah

As a general principle, in Utah, when a person gets divorced, provisions for his or her former spouse in his or her estate plan are automatically revoked, by operation of law.  Utah Code §75-2-804 provides that all revocable gifts made to the former spouse and the former spouse’s relatives are revoked upon divorce.  Thus, divorce revokes all gifts made to the former spouse and the former spouse’s relatives in a will, in a revocable (living) trust, in a retirement plan beneficiary designation, on a pay-on-death (POD) account, and in a life insurance policy beneficiary designation (where the insured spouse owns the policy).  (Of course, the divorce does not revoke gifts to one’s own children, even though they are also the former spouse’s children.)

Section 75-2-804 also provides that divorce revokes all revocable nominations of fiduciaries in favor of the former spouse or relatives of the former spouse.  Thus, any nomination of the former spouse or a relative of the former spouse as a personal representative in a will, and any nomination of the former spouse or a relative of the former spouse as a successor trustee under a revocable trust, is revoked by divorce.

The statute also provides that a divorce severs a joint tenancy, converting it into a tenancy-in-common.  Divorce thus terminates the right-of-survivorship feature that is characteristic of joint tenancy.

Irrevocable gifts and irrevocable fiduciary nominations are not revoked by divorce.  Thus, the provisions of an irrevocable trust remain intact, notwithstanding the divorce, unless the terms of the trust expressly provide otherwise.

The automatic revocation provisions are designed to accomplish what most people would want for their estate plans upon divorce.  They are intended to “fix” the divorced person’s estate plan even if he or she does not get around to actually revising the plan before he or she dies.  It is nonetheless important to consult an attorney and to revise one’s estate plan after getting divorced in order to ensure that your assets will be distributed in the manner you intend.

For a discussion of estate planning in Utah, see Basic Utah Estate Planning on this website.

Rust Tippett is the author of this blog post.

Copyright 2013 UNLEPI, LLC, a Utah limited liability company.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog post in no way creates an attorney-client relationship between the reader and either Robert S. (Rust) Tippett or Bennett Tueller Johnson & Deere, LLC.  The reader should consult with his or her own estate planning attorney regarding his or her particular circumstances.

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