Divorce May Challenge Wills, Business

Most of us grew up believing every marriage in the U.S. had a 50-50 chance of succeeding. Truth is, divorce rates have been falling since 1980, and more marriages are lasting longer than generations before.

In Dallas County, the number of divorces has decreased from about 6.7 for every 1,000 marriages to 4.5 for every 1,000 – a 30 percent drop. There’s still around 100,000 divorce petitions filed every year, but recent data shows most couples are working things out when those inevitable rough patches occur.

Why the slow decline in divorces? Experts offer plenty of reasons, but the smart money is on fewer marriages and couples marrying later in life. Millennials, for example, no longer feel religious or generational pressure to marry; they’re being pickier, making better choices with the help of dating apps, or growing more satisfied with being single. Improved communication and expectations going into marriage also help.

But for those of us who have made a marriage commitment, divorce is a possibility (albeit a remote one, hopefully). While we at Parvin Law Group do not practice family law or serve as divorce attorneys, we do recognize how divorce can factor in to an individual’s estate plan, retirement plans, or business interests. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering divorce.

Divorce and Wills

During the divorce process, the last thing on anyone’s mind is what would happen if they unexpectedly die or become seriously ill. Most people are surprised to learn that the soon-to-be ex-spouse retains legal authority to make medical decisions for you until the divorce is finalized. Your parents or siblings would have to petition a court to obtain those legal rights.

Similarly, if you die before your divorce is finalized, the divorce action will be dismissed and the executor determinations of your will move in place. In that scenario, now your surviving spouse has control over your estate and assets. Updating your will immediately following a divorce is crucial: several high-profile people, including celebrities, have failed to make this update and longtime ex-spouses were suddenly in control of their estate following their death.

Divorce and Business

Another mistake some people make is assuming any business interest or asset they have built on their own while married is theirs solely when they divorce. In community property states like Texas, each party owns half the assets accumulated during the marriage. This means your spouse owns 50 percent of your business if you used money accrued in the marriage to start the business.

Unless there are originating documents or a prenuptial agreement in place, a financial interest in a business is inheritable by a surviving spouse. Consider two individuals who create a partnership and split ownership in half. Each ownership piece is then split in half again between the partner and his or her spouse. Should a partner die (without the proper agreements in place on how to deal with such an event), the surviving spouse would have decision-making authority on all financial matters for that business.

What to do

At Parvin Law Group, we’ve created numerous business succession plans to address this scenario as well as many others. Our job is to consider all the possibilities and make sure the legacy and financial integrity of our clients remain intact. Death and divorce present challenges, but our team is committed to finding satisfactory solutions to these problems.

Have more questions about how a divorce can impact your estate plan or business? Give us a call at (214) 974-8940 and let’s set up a free phone consultation to discuss your concerns or needs.


ATTORNEY CHRIS PARVIN is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parvin is the Managing Partner of the Dallas, Texas law firm of Parvin Law Group, P.C. and serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mr. Parvin can be reached by email at chris@parvinlaw.com.

Parvin Law Group, P.C. is a Concierge Law Firm in Dallas, Texas with attorneys practicing law in the fields of Estate Planning, Probate, and Business Law.