FAQs About Wills

Is Gift to Stepchildren Void if Testator is Divorced After Signing a Will?

by Rania Combs

I received a note yesterday from someone whose mother had recently passed away.

His mother’s Will, which was made before she divorced, identified her stepchildren as beneficiaries. The note’s author asked: “Do the stepchildren have any claim to my mother’s estate?”

The Texas Estate Code specifically addresses this issue. Section 123.001(b) provides that if a testator makes a Will, and the testator marriage is later dissolved by divorce, annulment, or a declaration that the marriage is void, then all provisions in the Will, including fiduciary appointments, will be read as though the former spouse, and all relatives of the former spouse who are not also relatives of the testator, did not survive the testator, unless the Will provides otherwise.

So for example, suppose Jill prepares a Will during her marriage leaving her all her worldly possessions to her husband, Jack, if he survives her, or if he doesn’t survive her, in equal shares to her son, Hansel, and stepdaughter, Gretel.  If Jack and Jill get divorced after she signed her Will and Jill later dies, her Will would be read as though Jack and Gretel predeceased her, which means that all her worldly possessions would pass to Hansel.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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  1. Samantha Mori

    May 22, 2018 at 3:23pm

    Would it matter if the will did not specify “son” and “stepdaughter” and instead, simply named the parties? Would the will still be read as the stepdaughter predeceasing the testator?

    1. Rania Combs

      May 29, 2018 at 12:37pm

      It would not matter.