Divorce has a devastating effect on everyone involved. If you are currently in the middle of a divorce, or recently finalized a divorce, you may be going through a very rough emotional time. As such, thinking about the impact the divorce has had, or will have, on your estate plan may not be at the top of your list of concerns at the moment.
While this is certainly understandable, the consequences of not addressing your estate plan in the wake of a divorce can be serious. Your ex-spouse could end up inheriting your estate assets in the event of your death. Even worse, your own children could receive nothing. Take the time now to consult with your estate planning attorney. Some of the more common changes that often need to be made include:
- Removing your now ex-spouse as a beneficiary in your Last Will and Testament
- Appointing a guardian in your Will for your minor children in the event that you do not feel your ex-spouse should have custody of the children. The court will typically look first to the other parent, but your Will is your chance to appoint someone other than your ex-spouse in the event the court is willing to consider an alternative guardian.
- Replacing your ex-spouse as the beneficiary of ERISA plans, investment plans, pension plans, life insurance policies or pay on death accounts. Do not count on state laws to automatically remove your ex-spouse as a possible beneficiary on any of these accounts.
- Creating a trust and appointing a trustee. You can direct your estate assets that are meant for your children into the trust. Since you cannot leave assets directly to a minor, someone must oversee the assets. A trust if often an excellent solution.
- Executing a new living will, advanced directive, or healthcare directive. If your ex-spouse was appointed under this document to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacity, execute a new document and choose a new person to serve in that position.
- Revoking a power of attorney if one was executed wherein your ex-spouse was made your agent.
Now do you see why it’s so important to review your estate plan in the aftermath of a divorce? This review will be even more valuable if you consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.
BTW, it is also essential to consult with an experienced and qualified estate plannng if you intend to get re-married as, under certain circumstances, a new spouse may end up with unexpected assets unless adequate planning is undertaken to address his or her legal rights.