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Massachusetts Agencies

Effect of Marriage or Divorce on a Will

Probate

When a person divorces or marries these events can have an effect on his or her will. The situations are governed by the provisions of G.L.c. 191, §9.

A marriage (or remarriage) will revoke an existing will unless it "appears from the will" itself that the marriage was contemplated. The effect of a revoked will is, of course, that the decedent will be deemed to have died intestate.

A divorce or annulment will not revoke a will but it does result in the gift to the former spouse being void. The statute provides that "[p]roperty prevented from passing to the former spouse because of revocation by divorce shall pass as if a former spouse had failed to survive the decedent, and other provisions conferring a power or office on the former spouse shall be interpreted as if the spouse had failed to survive the decedent." The statute notes, however, that if a will is revoked solely by reason of the operation of the statute (as opposed to another act by the testator) the provisions as to the former spouse shall be revived if they are thereafter remarried to each other.

A separation will not revoke a will and a will made under the provisions of the Uniform Statutory Will Act (G.L.c. 191B) is not revoked on account of a divorce.