Divorce Voids Revocable Trust Gift to Spouse in Maryland

Advice from a divorce attorney: You should take action after a divorce to remove bequests to an ex-spouse in your will and other documents.  If you fail to do so, however, there are laws that provide that the judgment of divorce eliminates prior bequests or certain beneficiary designations to a former spouse. See Va. Code Sec. 20-111, 20-111.1, 64.2-412; Md. Code, Estates and Trusts Article, Sec. 4-105(4); DC Code Sec. 18-109 and Estate of Roscoe H. Liles, 435 A.2d 379; 1981 D.C. App. LEXIS 355.

But what if your estate planning was done through a revocable trust and not a Will?  In Maryland as of October 1, 2016, a judgment of divorce voids any term in a revocable trust that would distribute assets to the former spouse or appoint the former spouse trustee or trust advisor.  Md. Code, Estates and Trusts Article, Sec. 14.5-604.  Virginia and the District of Columbia do not have a similar law.

The effect of all these statutes on the treatment of a now former spouse in an estate plan is uncertain and incomplete and may be frustrated by federal law spousal protections. The savings statutes are no substitute for careful review of estate planning documents and beneficiary designations, and corrective action to ensure that you do not unintentionally include a gift to your former spouse.