After divorce, will I get inheritance?

Ask NJMoneyHelp

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Q. My ex-husband was killed in a car accident six months ago. We have been divorced for over 20 years and we were only married for three years. Am I entitled to anything? He had no will.
— Ex-wife

A. We’re sorry to hear about your ex, and we’re also sorry to tell you that you’re out of luck.

For starters, divorce automatically terminates any right a spouse has to inherit from the other spouse.

It also revokes any beneficiary designation your ex-husband made in your favor while you were married, said Roy Williams, president of Prestige Wealth Management in Flemington and Millburn.

For example, Williams said, if your husband named you as the beneficiary of his life insurance while you were married, the designation was automatically revoked when you got divorced. Likewise, if you were named as a beneficiary on a 401(k) plan or IRA during the marriage, the moment you got divorced, this beneficiary designation was automatically revoked.

That comes from a law change – N.J.S.A. 3B:3-14 – in 2004.

Williams said if there was a property settlement agreement, you should review it to see if he had any obligation to provide for you post-divorce.

Because your ex-husband died without a will, assets that he owned individually in his name that do not have a beneficiary would pass to his legal heirs, Williams said. That would include a current spouse, if any, and children, if any.

“If he was unmarried at the time of his death and had no children, his estate passes to his parents, if they are alive, otherwise his siblings,” he said. “An ex-spouse is not considered a legal heir and is not entitled to any part of an intestate estate.”

Plus, even if your ex-husband had a will that he signed before you got divorced, divorce also revokes any provision in a will for a spouse, Williams said. If he had executed a new will after the divorce, any bequest to you in the new will would be honored.

A note for anyone going through a divorce: Don’t rely on the law alone and be sure to change any beneficiary designations when your divorce is final.

Email your questions to moc.p1540233578leHye1540233578noMJN1540233578@ksA1540233578.