Update your will or you may as well still be married to your ex, and other surprising ways divorce can affect your legacy

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Ter illustrasie. Foto: Gallo Images/ Getty Images
Ter illustrasie. Foto: Gallo Images/ Getty Images

It’s a new year, and a new you, right?

This year, nearly one in five married South Africans will make the decision to start afresh and get a divorce.

If you're one of these, we suggest that as you put your life back together you don’t get forget this one vital piece of admin: updating your will.

The South African courts understand it takes time to get over a divorce, which is why the legal system gives you three months to update your will after you officially get divorced. 

So, if you pass away during this time, your ex may not have a claim on your estate and your children and heirs will receive your estate as you intended.

Your ex could inherit your estate 

If, however, three months lapses without you having updated your will, the courts will consider the wishes of the original will. And if your ex was named, they will still benefit.

"That’s problematic if you don’t want your house, your car or your favourite piece of family jewellery to go to your ex," says CEO of Capital Legacy Alex Simeonides. "Rather review your Will to make sure it reflects the changes in your personal life."

Read how not to become a statistic: Lawyers call January 'Divorce Month': How to avoid becoming a statistic this year

You ex could claim your children’s inheritance

Reaching a divorce agreement through the courts can be a difficult process that determines how your assets will be divided as well as child custody and visitation arrangements and whether either spouse pays alimony or financial support to the other.

While your will can’t change a divorce settlement agreement, it can ensure the orderly management of your wealth when you aren’t around to exercise personal control.

"For instance, your ex-spouse could still have a claim on your children’s inheritance but with a proper estate plan, you can account for the cost of maintenance obligations and protect your children’s inheritance through a Trust," explains Simeonides.

"This can be accommodated through reviewing and updating your Will."

See here how to protect kids from a separation: Watch: Helping your child deal with separation or divorce

Disadvantage your new partner

Right now, you may just want to put the past behind you and move on with your life.

Should you decide to remarry, you’ll need to update your will to make sure your new family, as well as your children from a former marriage, are taken care of should you pass away.

"Failing to update your will after a divorce may mean that your former spouse gets everything once you’ve passed on, to the disadvantage of your new partner," explains Simeonides. 

"You can make special bequests in your updated will to meet your financial responsibilities to your former spouse, without impacting your new family."   

That will give you the space to move forward, positively.

Looking ahead

The process of updating and reviewing your will need not be time consuming, complex or costly, but should be done every time you have a life changing event – a birth, marriage, purchase or sale of a property and of course, divorce.

Updating it every three to five years is essential to ensure your will remains current and reflects your wishes and financial circumstances.

For more news, advice and information on divorce, follow our Dignified Divorce series here.

Compiled for Parent24 by Capital Legacy.

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Read more:

South Africa’s surprising DIY divorce statistics

How can I get Home Affairs to process my divorce quicker?

Re-framing divorce: Families and their changing shapes

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