While going through divorce proceedings, individuals often neglect the reexamining of their estate plan. Failure to do so opens up the possibility that one of the estranged spouses could inherit all of the other’s assets. If no action has been taken to change the beneficiary, upon the death of a spouse the assets of that person are handled just as if the couple was still married.
Joint Tenancy and Community Property during a Pending Divorce
It’s a good idea to sever joint tenancy acquisitions when first filing for divorce. This eliminates the estranged spouse’s right of survivorship. In order to execute this severance written notice must be filed and agreed to by both parties.
Community property laws are somewhat different. If one individual involved in a pending divorce dies, half of the combined assets of both parties go to the heirs of the deceased.
See [Marriage of Hilke] 4 Cal. 4th 215 (1992)