2020 Georgia Code
Title 53 - Wills, Trusts, and Administration of Estates
Chapter 4 - Wills
Article 5 - Revocation and Republication
§ 53-4-49. Effect of Testator's Divorce, Annulment, or Remarriage to Former Spouse

Universal Citation: GA Code § 53-4-49 (2020)

All provisions of a will made prior to a testator's final divorce or the annulment of the testator's marriage in which no provision is made in contemplation of such event shall take effect as if the former spouse had predeceased the testator, and the provisions of Code Section 53-4-64 shall not apply with respect to the descendants of the former spouse who are not also descendants of the testator. If the testator remarries the former spouse and the testator has not revoked or amended the will that was made prior to the divorce or annulment, the remarriage shall not result in the revocation of the will and the provisions of the will that were revoked solely due to the application of this Code section shall be revived.

(Code 1981, §53-4-49, enacted by Ga. L. 1996, p. 504, § 10.)

Law reviews.

- For article, "The Time Gap in Wills: Problems Under Georgia's Lapse Statutes," see 6 Ga. L. Rev. 268 (1972). For article discussing the pretermitted heir, see 10 Ga. L. Rev. 447 (1976). For article criticizing former Code 1933, § 113-408 as too drastic, and suggesting revisions, see 11 Ga. L. Rev. 297 (1977). For annual survey of law of wills, trusts, and administration of estates, see 38 Mercer L. Rev. 417 (1986). For annual survey of wills, trusts, guardianships, and fiduciary administration, see 57 Mercer L. Rev. 403 (2005). For note, "Advantages and Disadvantages of Intestate Death for Married Persons With an Estate of $120,000 or Less," see 9 Ga. St. B.J. 102 (1972). For comment on Thornton v. Anderson, 207 Ga. 714, 64 S.E.2d 186 (1951), see 3 Mercer L. Rev. 233 (1951); 14 Ga. B.J. 86 (1951).

COMMENT

This section changes former OCGA Sec. 53-2-76 by providing that a divorce or annulment by the testator does not revoke the testator's will completely but rather results in the former spouse being treated as having predeceased the testator. In such a case, the provisions of the anti-lapse statute (Code Sec. 53-4-64) will not be applicable to descendants of the former spouse who are not also descendants of the testator. For example, if the testator is divorced but dies with an unrevoked will made during the marriage that named the testator's spouse as a beneficiary under the will, the spouse is treated as having predeceased the testator. If descendants of the spouse who are not also descendants of the testator survive the testator, these descendants will not take any portion of the testator's estate if their only claim is as beneficiaries who were substituted for the "predeceased" beneficiary by virtue of the application of Code Sec. 53-4-64. The provisions of this Code section apply to all provisions for the former spouse in the will, including provisions naming the former spouse as a fiduciary (executor, trustee of a testamentary trust, etc.). This section also provides that the remarriage of the testator to the same spouse will cause the pre-divorce will to become effective again if there has been no intervening change in that will.

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

ANALYSIS

  • General Consideration
  • Revocation by Marriage
  • Revocation by Birth of Child

General Consideration

Editor's notes.

- In light of the similarity of the statutory provisions, decisions under former Code 1933, § 113-408, are included in the annotations for this Code section.

Language of statute is unambiguous.

- It clearly expresses the intention of the legislature that in every case subsequent marriage or birth of a child will revoke a will, unless the will contains a provision which is made in contemplation of such an event. Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Statute applies to all wills. Friedman v. Cohen, 215 Ga. 859, 114 S.E.2d 24 (1960) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Strict construction.

- No exception will be made to the rule of the statute. Simpson v. Dodge, 220 Ga. 705, 141 S.E.2d 532 (1965) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Meaning of "provision for."

- It is incorrect to construe the statute to mean that "provision for" is the equivalent of "in contemplation of." Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Under the law, the only questions to be decided are: (1) whether the marriage was subsequent to the will, and (2) whether the will makes any provision for that event. Johnson v. Cromer, 234 Ga. 73, 214 S.E.2d 644 (1975) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Province of probate court versus proper trial court.

- In a child's appeal of a trial court's declaratory judgment that the will of a parent was republished by a codicil and that a portion of a prior order of a probate court that the ex-spouse of the testator was to be treated as if having predeceased the testator was null and void was upheld on appeal as the issue regarding the construction of the will regarding the ex-spouse was a question of law for the trial court and was not within the jurisdiction of the probate court. Honeycutt v. Honeycutt, 284 Ga. 42, 663 S.E.2d 232 (2008).

Cited in Allen v. First Nat'l Bank, 169 F.2d 221 (5th Cir. 1948); Carter v. Graves, 206 Ga. 234, 56 S.E.2d 917 (1949); Campbell v. Allen, 208 Ga. 274, 66 S.E.2d 226 (1951); King v. Bennett, 215 Ga. 345, 110 S.E.2d 772 (1959); Houston v. Pollard, 217 Ga. 184, 121 S.E.2d 629 (1961); Lawson v. Hurt, 217 Ga. 827, 125 S.E.2d 480 (1962); Webb v. Smith, 220 Ga. 809, 141 S.E.2d 899 (1965); Lampkin v. Edwards, 222 Ga. 288, 149 S.E.2d 708 (1966); Brennan v. Rushing, 225 Ga. 85, 165 S.E.2d 840 (1969); Citizens & S. Nat'l Bank v. United States, 451 F.2d 221 (5th Cir. 1971); Jones v. Jones, 231 Ga. 145, 200 S.E.2d 725 (1973); Carr v. Kupfer, 250 Ga. 106, 296 S.E.2d 560 (1982); McPherson v. McPherson, 254 Ga. 122, 327 S.E.2d 204 (1985); Brown v. Cronic, 266 Ga. 779, 470 S.E.2d 682 (1996).

Revocation by Marriage

Will revoked by subsequent marriage is revoked in toto. Lavender v. Wilkins, 237 Ga. 510, 228 S.E.2d 888 (1976) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Provision shall be made in contemplation of the event.

- Will must show that the testator had in contemplation of the event, that is the testator's future marriage; and the will must contain a provision made in contemplation of such event, otherwise the will is revoked. Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Revocation automatic unless express provision made in contemplation of marriage.

- It is not required that a provision in the will must be of a beneficial interest in the estate of the testator, but it is sufficient if the will refers to the event and provides for the same either by making a beneficial provision or expressing the intention or desire of the testator that such future husband have no beneficial interest in her estate. Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Testator may refer in his will to a woman to whom he is subsequently married, but in the absence of express reference therein to his future marriage, the will does not show that the reference to the woman was made in contemplation of such an event. Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Provision in the will of a testator giving a beneficial interest in her estate to the man whom she subsequently marries, but containing no mention or reference to the event of her future marriage, does not show that the provision was made in contemplation of her marriage. The subsequent marriage of the testator automatically revokes such a will. Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Provision giving a beneficial interest in the estate to a named person whom the testator subsequently marries does not show or even intimate that such provision was made in contemplation of the marriage. Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

To avoid revocation of a will by a subsequent marriage, it must appear in clear and unmistakable terms that the testator contemplated the event of a future marriage and made some reference to that event. Johnson v. Cromer, 234 Ga. 73, 214 S.E.2d 644 (1975) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Revocation is made to turn not upon any provision made for the wife but upon whether the testator, by the testator's will, has made a provision for such an event. If, by the testator's will the testator had done so, the will is not revoked; if the testator has not, it is revoked. McParland v. McParland, 233 Ga. 458, 211 S.E.2d 748 (1975) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Illegal marriage insufficient to revoke will.

- No agreement purporting to constitute a common-law marriage, nor cohabitation of the man and woman while holding themselves out to the public as husband and wife, nor birth of children to such parties, will constitute or prove a common-law marriage between them, when the man was legally married to another woman throughout the period of such cohabitation and relationship. Consequently, a will written by the purported wife during the cohabitation was revoked by her subsequent valid marriage to the purported husband after his divorce from his first wife. Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Will is not voided by a marriage ceremony when, at that time, the caveator was incapable of contracting marriage and the ceremony was absolutely void. Graves v. Carter, 207 Ga. 308, 61 S.E.2d 282 (1950) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

When the evidence was in conflict as to whether there had been a previous marriage, the trial court was authorized to find that there had not and, therefore, that the ceremonial marriage between the testator and the caveator was valid so as to cause the revocation of the testator's will. Faulk v. Faulk, 222 Ga. 522, 150 S.E.2d 818 (1966) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

General provision disinheriting all "heirs" not expressly provided for is insufficient to show that the testator contemplated a future marriage. Johnson v. Cromer, 234 Ga. 73, 214 S.E.2d 644 (1975) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Testamentary power of appointment cannot be exercised by a revoked will. Lavender v. Wilkins, 237 Ga. 510, 228 S.E.2d 888 (1976) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Will exercising a power of appointment which was made in contemplation of marriage is not revoked by the subsequent marriage. Lavender v. Wilkins, 237 Ga. 510, 228 S.E.2d 888 (1976) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Revocation by Birth of Child

Will revoked unless provision made for after-born child.

- Fact that the testator may have lived some time after the birth of the child, and failed to make any change in the testator's will, can make no difference. The will is void immediately upon the birth of the child, and nothing the testator might do or fail to do could give the will life. The will is dead as completely as if the testator had destroyed the will by burning, or any other means known to the law. Saliba v. Saliba, 202 Ga. 279, 42 S.E.2d 748 (1947) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Son shown to have been born subsequently to the execution of a will is not entitled to recover in ejectment against a purchaser for a valid consideration who relied on the judgment of the court of ordinary (now probate court) probating the will in solemn form, and who purchased prior to any proceeding to set aside such judgment. Mitchell v. Arnall, 203 Ga. 384, 47 S.E.2d 258 (1948) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

When a proceeding is filed to probate a will which unquestionably has been revoked by the subsequent birth of a child, and no provision has been made in contemplation of that event, and the fact appears on the face of the proceedings, consent by a guardian ad litem that the will be probated is clearly beyond the scope of the guardian's authority, and on a proper application for that purpose the judgment of probate should be set aside. Saliba v. Saliba, 202 Ga. 279, 42 S.E.2d 748 (1947) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Revocation is made to turn, not upon any provision made for the child, but upon whether the testator, by the testator's will, has made a provision for such an event. If, by the testator's will the testator had done so, the will is not revoked; if the testator has not, it is revoked. McParland v. McParland, 233 Ga. 458, 211 S.E.2d 748 (1975) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Adoption equivalent to birth of child.

- Antecedent will, which makes no provision in contemplation of an adoption, is revoked by implication or inference of law by the testator' legal adoption of a minor child. The act of adopting a child, under the provisions of the adoption statute of 1941 (Ga. L. 1941, p. 305) as amended by the Act of 1949 (Ga. L. 1949, p. 1157), is the equivalent in law of the birth of a child. Thornton v. Anderson, 207 Ga. 714, 64 S.E.2d 186 (1951), for comment, see 3 Mercer L. Rev. 233 (1951); 14 Ga. B.J. 86 (1951) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

Provision in a will giving an unborn child a beneficial interest in the estate obviously is made in contemplation of the future birth of a child. Williams v. Lane, 193 Ga. 306, 18 S.E.2d 481 (1942) (decided under former Code 1933, § 113-408).

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Am. Jur. 2d.

- 79 Am. Jur. 2d, Wills, §§ 551, 556.

ALR.

- Illegitimacy of child as affecting revocation of will by subsequent birth of child, 18 A.L.R. 91; 38 A.L.R. 1344.

Statute as to effect of subsequent birth of a child as applicable where will provides for child, in the absence of an express exception, 30 A.L.R. 1236.

Divorce as equivalent of death for the purposes of provision in will or trust in respect of survivorship as between husband and wife, 35 A.L.R. 141.

Separation agreement as affecting right of inheritance, 35 A.L.R. 1505; 34 A.L.R.2d 1020.

Rule regarding revocation of will by marriage as affected by antenuptial agreement or settlement, 92 A.L.R. 1010.

Disinheritance provision or mere nominal bequest as affecting application of statute for benefit of pretermitted children, 152 A.L.R. 723.

Remarriage of woman after death of or divorce from former husband as revoking will executed during former marriage, 9 A.L.R.2d 510.

Adoption of child as revoking will, 24 A.L.R.2d 1085.

Admissibility of extrinsic evidence to show testator's intention as to omission of provision for child, 88 A.L.R.2d 616.

Statutory revocation of will by subsequent birth or adoption of child, 97 A.L.R.2d 1044.

Divorce or annulment as affecting will previously executed by husband or wife, 71 A.L.R.3d 1297.

Devolution of gift over upon spouse predeceasing testator where gift to spouse fails because of divorce, 74 A.L.R.3d 1108.

Marriage of testator or birth of testator's child as revoking will previously made in exercise of power of appointment, 92 A.L.R.3d 1244.

Conflict of laws as to pretermission of heirs, 99 A.L.R.3d 724.

Validity of statutes or rules providing that marriage or remarriage of woman operates as revocation of will previously executed by her, 99 A.L.R.3d 1020.

Sufficiency of provision for, or reference to, prospective spouse to avoid lapse or revocation of will by subsequent marriage, 38 A.L.R.4th 117.

Pretermitted heir statutes: what constitutes sufficient testamentary reference to, or evidence of contemplation of, heir to render statute inapplicable, 83 A.L.R.4th 779.

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