Impact of Divorce on Terms in a Will that Benefit the Former Spouse in Tennessee

Posted on Aug 27 2017 11:56AM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

When a Will is executed by someone, and then they are later divorced, the divorce revokes any benefits that were going to go to the former spouse under the Will.  This revocation is automatic and by statute that was passed by the Tennessee legislature.  T.C.A. § 32-1-202(a) provides as follows:


(a) If after executing a will the testator is divorced or the testator's marriage annulled, the divorce or annulment revokes any disposition or appointment of property made by the will to the former spouse, any provision conferring a general or special power of appointment on the former spouse, and any nomination of the former spouse as executor, trustee, conservator or guardian, unless the will expressly provides otherwise.


When individuals remarry after their divorce, the provisions that were revoked by T.C.A. § 32-1-202, are automatically revived by the subsequent remarriage.  Additionally, under T.C.A. § 32-1-202(d) a formal separation (by court order or otherwise) does not terminate the status as husband and wife and is not considered a divorce for purposes of this section.  In other words, a formal legal separation does nothing to the terms of a Will that benefit a spouse.  Only a final divorce changes the terms of the Will.  This section provides:


(d) For purposes of this section, divorce or annulment means any divorce or annulment that would exclude the spouse as a surviving spouse within the meaning of § 31-1-102(b). A decree of separation that does not terminate the status of husband and wife is not a divorce for purposes of this section.


This statute needs to be considered anytime there is an individual who dies who has been divorced when they still have any provision for their ex-spouse in their will.  It is important to note that under Tennessee law there is not an automatic revocation of a life insurance policy that benefits your spouse after a divorce.  The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled on this issue previously.  I have blogged on this topic and that can be found at this link.


Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Wills and Estates blog.

TAGS: Life Insurance, Wills, Divorce/Annulment
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com