Updating Your Estate Plan After a Divorce

Divorce affects every area of your life. Estate planning is no exception. You’ll want to update your estate plan to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary on various documents and update other beneficiaries who may be impacted by getting divorced. Here is what you should do to update your estate plan after getting divorced: 

Take Your Ex-Spouse Off Assets with Right of Survivorship Clauses 

Assets such as IRAs, CDs, and savings accounts that you jointly own with your spouse with “payable upon death” or “transfer upon death” clauses will be automatically transferred to the next owner when you pass away. You’ll want to ensure that your ex-spouse is taken off as an owner of these types of assets to prevent them from inheriting them once you pass away. 

Review Advanced Directives 

Advance directives are written instructions expressing your wishes regarding medical care in emergencies or terminal situations when you cannot communicate those decisions for yourself. These directives are often used when someone is terminally ill, in a coma, has late-stage dementia, or is severely injured. 

If your ex-spouse had any involvement in your healthcare directives, you’ll want to update these documents with your current preferences. If you designated your ex-spouse as your Healthcare Surrogate, you may wish to appoint someone else to act as your healthcare proxy.  

Create a New Will

An ex-spouse is automatically disinherited from your will once the divorce is finalized. However, many aspects of your will are likely to change after you get divorced, so you may want to create an entirely new will and revoke the old one. You’ll want to consider appointing a new personal representative to handle your estate, especially if it was your ex-spouse or one of your former in-laws. You’ll also want to name new beneficiaries for assets you had given to your ex-spouse in your old will. If you don’t update your will, your spouse’s share of the estate may go to the children you had with your ex-spouse. This can lead to arguments amongst your children about splitting the share, so it’s best to create a new document that clearly reflects your wishes.  

If you have family members who may have listed your ex-spouse as a beneficiary in their wills, you’ll want to contact them to have them review their estate planning documents as well. 

Name a Guardian of Minor Children

You can name a guardian for your children in your will. In most cases, your children will go with their surviving biological parent if you pass away before they turn 18. This may not be how you desire your children to be cared for once the divorce is finalized, so updating the guardian in your estate plan is important. For example, you may want your children to stay with their stepparent. If you don’t list them as a guardian in your will, the stepparent would have no legal rights to your children after you pass away. 

Modify a Revocable Trust

If you have any marital property in the revocable trust, your spouse is entitled to half of these assets. Often, spouses make these types of trusts together, so your ex-spouse may be listed as a grantor. You’ll want to update the trust to account for marital property no longer in the trust and update your beneficiaries to remove your ex-spouse. 

Update Beneficiary Designations 

Assets with beneficiary designations like life insurance policies, 401ks, savings bonds, and bank accounts will automatically transfer to the beneficiary listed on the asset after you pass away. If you listed your ex-spouse as a beneficiary on any of these documents, you’ll want to update them and select a new beneficiary. 

Establish New Powers of Attorney 

A Power of Attorney is a document that gives someone else the legal authority to make decisions for you. Often referred to as a “POA,” a Power of Attorney can be used in various situations, from designating someone to handle everyday tasks like paying bills to managing a family-run business. If you appoint your ex-spouse as your agent in a POA, you’ll want to create a new document that lists your new intended agent. 

Kathy D. Sheive: Estate Planning & Family Law Attorney 

Updating an estate plan after a divorce requires focused time and attention to detail. Estate planning and family law attorney Kathy D. Sheive understands the intricacies of these legal proceedings and will help ensure your estate plan accurately reflects your final wishes and transfers your estate to your family after you pass away. Call us at 407-315-2268 to discuss how we can help you move on after a divorce. 

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