Can you disinherit your lawfully-wedded spouse? It’s complicated.
Washington State is a community property state. That means is that without specific planning (such as a prenuptial agreement) when a couple marries, most property acquired during the marriage becomes property of the marital community. This ‘community property’ is subject to special inheritance requirements. Under Washington State law upon your death, your spouse (if you have one) is entitled to receive all of your community property along with half of your separate property. The other half of your separate property can be given in your will to whoever you’d like to receive it. Without a will, Washington State Law would award the remaining separate property to a decedent’s children or surviving parents, if they had any at the time of their death.
Other written documents can also affect how your spouse can inherit. If you have a prenuptial, postnuptial, or community property agreement, that written agreement could change the inheritance rights of your spouse. A prenuptial agreement or separate property agreement, provided they are signed well in advance of your marriage, can potentially waive a spouse’s right to inherit. Your Will should be consistent with the terms of your prenuptial agreement. A community property agreement is an agreement between spouses declaring that all assets belonging to either spouse are community property and are to be considered equally owned by both spouses.
There are other changes you can make to your estate documents as well to limit the power that your spouse might have over your estate. You may have given your spouse power of attorney at some point, which would mean your spouse might access to all of your financial accounts and assets. If you have an existing Will or Trust, you may have named your spouse as your executor or Trustee which would give them power over your estate.
While you are married, your spouse is still entitled to some inheritance from your estate. Once a divorce is finalized, you may revisit your estate plan and update your will at that time, since your spouse will no longer have a legal claim to community property in your estate. Don’t forget to check on your beneficiary or ‘pay on death’ designations for your bank and other financial accounts as well. Even if you remove your spouse as a beneficiary under your will, they may still inherit an asset like a life insurance policy or a bank account if you list their name as the beneficiary on that account, even after a divorce.
If it’s time to update your estate plan, or to get a will or trust set up for the very first time, you are welcome to contact Limitless Law PLLC at (360) 685-0145 to find out more about how we can help.