There are different rules for spouses' shares under a Will: what may happen if a Will is executed before marriage, and other rules for what happens to a Will upon divorce. Although this information is not meant to be exhaustive, read further for some insight into the intersection of Wills & Estate law and Pennsylvania family law.
If you make your Will before getting married, and do not include your spouse in the Will later on, then your spouse is entitled to receive his/her "intestate share" in Pennsylvania. This usually provides the spouse with a significant portion of your estate, which he/she may have to share with children of the marriage, and others who may claim under intestacy laws.
If you subsequently amend your Will to include your spouse after you have been married, you can draft your will more specifically to provide certain assets, real property, and or personal property to your spouse. This allows you to give your spouse more than what they would have received from the intestate share.
If a Will is drafted "in contemplation of marriage," meaning you were well-aware that you were getting married and chose to not include your spouse in your Will, this may change what your spouse is entitled to take under your Will. The law treats this as intentionally omitting your spouse from receiving under your estate.
However, in that instance, your spouse is not always left with nothing. Pennsylvania law allows spouses to take an "Elective Share," which is a share of the deceased spouse's estate they are allowed under PA estate law. The elective share provides a spouse with something to take in the event that they are disinherited or otherwise taken out of their spouse's Will. A spouse wanting to take his/her elective share must make this request in writing during the Probate process.
So what happens to my Will if I get divorced? When you are divorced in Pennsylvania, all provisions in your Will granting part of your estate to your now ex-spouse will be automatically revoked. This means that they are simply no longer in effect.
To learn more about the impact marriage and divorce have on a Pennsylvania Will, contact our attorneys at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates.