By Sanette Viljoen – SV Legal Consultant
For most people, a divorce is an extremely emotional and exhausting process. Once the divorce is finalised, the relief is so great that most people promptly forget that the divorce could have an important effect on his/her will. After a divorce, what is the effect of the testator’s change in legal status on his/her will?
A change in the testator’s legal status, for example marriage, divorce, or children, does not result in the automatic revocation of a will. Therefore, your will remains valid, even though your legal status has changed. This provision should result in flashing hazard lights for any recently divorced person.
Section 2B of the Law of Succession Amendment Act (No. 43 of 1992) provides that a divorce does have an effect on a testator’s will, but only for a limited time and only in respect of certain beneficiaries.
If a person dies within three months of his/her divorce or annulment of their marriage, his/her ex-spouse does not inherit. This rule applies automatically, unless it is clear from the will that the former spouse must be a beneficiary of the will in spite of the dissolution of the marriage.
If a person does not change his/her will within three months after the divorce, the former spouse does inherit. In other words, if your will stipulates that your ex-wife inherits your entire estate on your death and you do not change your will within three months of the divorce, that provision will take effect and your ex-spouse will inherit everything, despite your divorce.
This section of the Act only deals with the effect of a divorce on the will. Please note: It does not revoke the will and other provisions of the will are therefore not affected.
Therefore, make sure you change your will within three months after your divorce has been finalised.