Getting divorced? Redo your will

By Melissa Shin | June 9, 2014 | Last updated on November 8, 2023
1 min read

Divorce is an emotionally and financially stressful time. But if you don’t update your estate plan, it can cause even more stress in the future.

So if you’re getting divorced, make sure you revisit your will, beneficiaries and Powers of Attorney as soon as you decide to separate.

“If the will [and other assets with designated beneficiaries] aren’t dealt with early in the process, there’s a significant risk to both [spouses],” says Joanne Dereta, managing director and principal of Stonegate Private Counsel LP in Toronto.

Most married couples name each other as beneficiaries, and if one spouse dies during divorce proceedings without making the change, his or her ex will receive the assets. That’s usually undesirable.

And you should also review guardianship for children, in case one parent is now unfit.

Even worse is when separating spouses are named as executors of each other’s estates. If one spouse dies, “The surviving spouse is now in a conflict of interest, because he’s essentially negotiating with himself,” says Dereta, and would have to step down. The courts would then appoint an executor, delaying the process.

In a collaborative divorce process, a provision prevents any changes to wills and beneficiary designations until both parties meet. Dereta advises addressing those issues early in the process—preferably the first meeting.

Real-estate titles must also change.

“You want to make sure you’re not obligated to debts for properties you no longer own,” says BMO Nesbitt Burns investment advisor Angela Galer-Grist.

Melissa Shin headshot

Melissa Shin

Melissa is the editorial director of and leads Newcom Media Inc.’s group of financial publications. She has been with the team since 2011 and been recognized by PMAC and CFA Society Toronto for her reporting. Reach her at You may also call or text 416-847-8038 to provide a confidential tip.