Anticipating changes to your estate after a divorce

Divorce brings about major changes to virtually all aspects of your life; as such, you’ll find yourself needing to reevaluate and almost definitely revise your estate planning.  As soon as you start going through the divorce process, make sure to look over your will and other estate documents, and consider all of your existing assets and accounts.

Proper timing

It’s important to start making revisions to your estate planning prior to your divorce getting finalized.  Let’s say your spouse is currently designated as having power of attorney for you, in the event that you become too mentally incapacitated to handle your medical or financial affairs. After your divorce, unless you specifically request otherwise, they’ll automatically lose power of attorney – in which case, you’d better have alternatives lined up.  However, if you become mentally incapacitated before the divorce is finalized, and didn’t make the relevant changes to your estate documents, your spouse will still have power of attorney.  Revoking power of attorney for your spouse is important, and it must be done in a timely and legally binding way.

Similar considerations must be given to your will.  After the divorce your spouse won’t inherit from you unless you specifically state otherwise.  But if you pass away before the divorce is finalized, they’ll still be a beneficiary in your unrevised will.

Changes to consider

Take time to consider if you want to name new beneficiaries or remove existing beneficiaries from your will.  If you’ve established a trust with your spouse, how will that be affected after the divorce? Are you happy with your current choice of trustee, or will that have to change as well? If your children are minors, or they need guardianship as adults because of special needs, you have to make sure that you lay out alternatives for guardians; ideally, you and your ex-spouse will be in agreement in matters concerning your children and their best interests.

Look over your life insurance policy and pension plan. Will you have to make modifications to them? What assets will you be left with after the divorce? Will you need to pay alimony or child support?

Changes to your estate planning can’t be made in isolation; you have to look at the bigger picture and understand how each change will affect your overall plans.  If you consult with an expert attorney about these changes, you’ll avoid an unnecessary loss of money and minimize the risk of having your wishes undermined.  Contact us to discuss your estate planning and how it will be affected by your divorce.  Although estate planning may not be a top priority for you during the difficult process of divorce, making the appropriate revisions is necessary, and a good attorney will help make it less of a burden for you.